How Indian media tried to link every issue in the world to Demonetisation

Demonetisation may hit fee reimbursement” screamed this front page headline of The Hindu on Nov. 21st . They were alluding to the fee the Telangana state government has to reimburse for all engineering colleges in the state. To save you the pain of reading through the whole report, here is the summary:

  • State government owes more than Rs 2000 crores to engineering colleges from the last 2 years.
  • It has recently released ~Rs 250 crores only.
  • It has promised to release ~Rs 600 crores “soon”.
  • In a totally unrelated topic, the report states that the state government is claiming losses to the tune of ~Rs 2000 crores due to demonetisation.
  • The Hindu is therefore running a story that demonetisation will impact further payments!

The sheer logic behind running this story boggles the mind. This problem has been pending for more than 2 years and amounts were not even released in hay days. In fact, there was the exact same problem back in 2012 too! It looks like the latest fad in town is to blame all teething problems to the demonetisation drive!

Telangana set to lose Rs 2000 crores per month” – screamed the front page headline on November 11, 2016. However, on November 16, 2016, the same newspaper, The Hindu had a front page report that told us that Telangana is losing ~ Rs 1000 -Rs 1250 crores per month.

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So what changed from the 11th to the 16th? Upon reading the headline on 16th, one would assume that the change is because of the cut in expenditure. But a detailed reading of the report tells us that nothing changed from the 11th to 16th!  Both the times there is a reference to the CM talking to the governor once, with “supporting statistics”. It looks like a mere miracle that the losses came down by a whopping 50% in just 5 days, without doing anything! Perhaps we wait for a few more days, and this problem is gone then?

Demonetisation: Severe cash crunch compels citizens to seek psychiatric help”, screamed this headline of First Post. The first case study itself sent me into a tizzy. Let me summarise it for you (all emphasis mine):

  • A student went to a renowned psychiatrist
  • He felt “tormented” because his dad didn’t give him his weekly pocket money of Rs. 1200/-.
  • He claims he cannot drink tea or eat a snack. Neither can he borrow because he has already piled up on debt.

First of all, it beats me why anyone would want to carry high denomination notes to drink tea in canteen. Secondly, if a student who despite getting Rs.1200/- per week has piled up debt in college canteen, then he needs to go see a financial adviser and not a psychiatrist! Thirdly, it does not mention anywhere that the student approached the doctor only because of this *crisis*.

The article goes on to mention another case study, because of the impact of marriage planning. This sounds like a genuine problem, given how anxious we can get during marriage, even in good times! The article then stops giving any more examples and merely talks about “most cases”. To top it all, we also come to know that psychiatrists are thinking that the “fabric of trust” in this country is breaking because of demonetisation!

Modi’s demonetisation of old 1000 and 500 rupee notes, a blunder in every imaginable wayscreamed the headline (headline has been changed later) in Economic Times. I read through the article. It is based entirely on hearsay. Sample these points:

  • Over 90% of the transactions in India are cash transactions,
  • More than 90% of the cash in India is not black money .
  • As per a recent estimate, only 6% of black money is kept in the form of cash.

The “Recent estimate” of 6% was from another news report from Hindustan times, which was interpreting this data from IT raids in the past one year. The 90% has been pulled out of thin air, and random conclusions that link this with what Mao did to sparrows in China are being thrown at the readers!

What do you do when you run out of pictures? Use them again! Take a look at the image below.

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The whatabouttery of the image is baffling too. I can walk into a jewellery shop at 10 am any day and can click a picture of an empty shop! Secondly, the headline on Nov 15 says that “Small traders hit hardest”. How come jewellers are now “small traders”? If buying gold was another way to get rid of black money, isn’t it a good thing that this is being moderated now? But no, the papers won’t tell you that!

Revenge No Development Strategy” – screamed this headline on Times of India. I was desperate to read some articles that talk about alternatives to the current move announced by Prime Minister Modi. This article was mentioned on an MP’s timeline, so I checked it out. After doing some comparisons with countries like Pakistan, Vietnam, North Korea, Zimbabwe etc, the author tells us that “Modi also chose an odd moment to attack corruption, which appeared to be in retreat.” Whoa, retreat? The source of this information is the “rebound” in our rankings from being the 95th most corrupt country to 76th! Nice job, let’s pat ourselves on the back and go back to citing these numbers to the people of the country!

Apart from the privatisation of banks (I still don’t know how this will help control black money, because the author just mentions it as the only good idea and doesn’t discuss further!), we get to read about another possible way.  “There is also a better way to downsize the black economy, which Modi’s government tried but with underwhelming results.” He tells us that Indonesia’s income declaration scheme imposed only a 4% tax on black money, so a lot more was recovered.  Now – the headline makes sense! Don’t think about revenge on those poor black money hoarders! Let’s perhaps molly coddle the black money hoarders into getting them to pay much much less tax than what the salaried class pays!

Apart from the shameful coverage of linking many unfortunate deaths to this demonetisation drive, the media is also trying to whip up passions across a section of the society by writing such contradictory, sometimes meaningless articles in their publications! Nothing better was anyway expected from the English media. As a parting shot, take a look at the image below, with the caption –“Vendors at Musheerabad Fish market in Hyderabad wait for customers”.

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Is it just me, or do you also not see any “vendors” in the picture?

The fixed interview of the decade: Rajdeep talks to “Tigress” Sonia

THE BUILD UP:

As one tuned into India Today, the screens flashed ‘Biggest interview of the decade’. Sonia Gandhi was giving her first interview in many years and she was giving it to Rajdeep Sardesai, their consulting editor. To say Sonia Gandhi has been reclusive when it comes to overtly dealing with the fourth estate would be an understatement with only an address to the nation being some form of in front of camera communication.

Many viewers speculated the possible questions which would have been asked. Many probably created a wish list of the questions they would want asked encompassing topics like Demonetisation, the Surgical strike on Pakistan, the separatist protests in Kashmir, the Congress Party’s poor performance in recent elections, Robert Vadra so on. And so it began, the interview was set in the Swaraj Bhavan formerly owned by Motilal Nehru which was the birth place of Indira Gandhi.

THE INTERVIEW:

The first question thrown by Mr. Sardesai, ‘When did you first meet Indira Gandhi?’ looked a bit odd considering Sonia Gandhi was the one getting interviewed, but could have been plausible considering the proximity of the interview’s date with that of Indira Gandhi’s birth anniversary. It was followed by what was Indira like at home, then what influence did she (Indira) have on her (Sonia’s) politics and life. Flags probably were beginning to be raised in viewers mind about the arc of the interview.

Then he asked Sonia about the allegations that she, Indira, and the rest promoted dynasty politics. Finally it looked like Rajdeep was done easing Sonia in and real question were starting to prop up but again he went, ‘what are the central ideas and values of Indira’, the first response to it by Sonia was, many might have guessed, ‘Secularism’.

One thing led to another and Rajdeep managed to ask as to was Indira practising vote bank politics. If not already clear, Sonia’s response brought the whole interview into perspective. She responded, ‘We are discussing Mrs. Gandhi, and I don’t like to discuss politics’. At another point too when Sonia sensed Rajdeep was drifting away from her set rules, she used the same rebuke.

There surely have been instances where the questions in an interview appeared fixed but in this case the whole topic was pre-decided and no attempt was made to keep this fact under wraps. It was an eulogy to Indira Gandhi, in the words of her daughter-in-law, being asked ultra-soft-ball questions by a friendly face. And all the ‘interview of the decade’ looked like offering was underarm full tosses!

In short, questions were asked to Sonia about Indira and the various aspects of her life which Sonia Gandhi remembered with surprising clarity. Rajdeep’s tone and body language remained extremely docile, supportive and probably sycophantic, completely unlike the one during Smriti Irani’s interview.

It wasn’t the first time Mr Sardesai had interviewed Mrs Gandhi; he did another interview with her back in 2005, when there there were real questions like her reaction to corruption in politics, allegations of her being the real power behind Manmohan Singh, etc. though the tone still remained the same. One thing which remained EXACTLY the same was Rajdeep’s admiration for Sonia, who he said “fought like a Tigress”:

Much like he used to keep saying Rahul Gandhi has “come of age”.

THE AFTERMATH:

So was the interview only agreed upon after Sonia Gandhi was assured of being asked questions only regarding Indira Gandhi? Did it not violate the “moral compass” of the profession he strives so hard to follow?

Rajdeep Sardesai' tweet

Another thing that struck us was Sardesai repeating ‘I ask you this because’ after some questions, did Sardesai desperately tried to justify his logic in order to escape Sonia Gandhi’s displeasure for asking some rare questions that did not follow the pre-decided path?

Was this Sonia Gandhi interview a part of a grander plan of the Congress to promote Indira Gandhi and her image so to benefit the party in upcoming elections? A grand white-wash of Indira Gandhi, and maybe promoting Priyanka Gandhi as the modern Indira Gandhi?

As for the reactions we turned to twitter, many dug up Rajdeep’s old tweets to show him the mirror:

One eminent journalist though gave her approval

People’s rebuttal

And finally, someone at home might not be very happy after such easy questions were asked, as evident by her past record of keeping stringent standards in interviews:

Congress and AAP Social Media supporters gang up again to spread panic about new currency notes

As expected, ever since the 8th November demonetisation move kicked in, the usual suspects are having sleepless nights. The list of hoaxes around the demonetisation scheme haven’t stopped coming in as the anti Modi brigade queues up to cash in on the uncertainty after the move.

The photoshop machines have been working over time printing new hoaxes faster than RBI can print new currency notes forcing OpIndia.com to dispel those rumours at the same rate .

The latest mob attack being on the new currency notes. The mobsters after having tried all ways possible to discredit the humble currency notes have now moved on to play the time tested, hardest to dispel, photoshopping routine for their propaganda.

In the latest trick to confuse and paralyse masses, photoshopped images of the new currency is being circulated. Some of these pictures are of the Rs 500 notes where they claim they received new notes from ATM which are only half printed while others claim they got Rs 2000 notes which were misprinted.

Just days before this, a hoax of an incorrect Hindi language print on the Rs 2000 note was made viral by the same group, with suggestion that the Rs 2000 note was printed in hurry and that demonetisation should be rolled back because the Government and RBI are ill prepared.

After all the hoaxes being busted on this site alone, the latest attempt was hundreds of Congress and AAP affiliated handles suddenly claiming to have withdrawn washed off Rs 500 notes. Here are two such geniuses:

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This chap has already deleted his tweets which were retweeted over 1000 times and has now moved on to the next hoax which is already debunked (note the hashtag):

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Two more tweets claiming the 500 note half printed, one of them mentioning it’s a Whatsapp forward. These were deleted later too:

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There is no proof that these notes actually exist other than the deleted tweets based on Whatsapp forwards. The notes clearly look badly photoshoped. The other rumour being spread is that the Rs 2000 notes having a lot of mis-prints with hundreds of handles tweeting about it.

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It’ll be hard to say with 100% surety if these are fake or real. But considering how hard the rumour mills are working (look at some other rumours like SBI waves off Mallya loan, Kejriwal passes thief’s suicide as innocent citizen committing suicide because of demonetisation and top 10 rumours about demonetisation) it will be foolish to not wait till facts are clear.

Some error rate in currency printing is but natural and banks replace these notes. RBI has made errors before and has come forward and issued clarifications earlier. But for now this remains unconfirmed too

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Meanwhile the assault on the new currency continues unabated with you-tubers making them pass through stress tests usually reserved for nuclear bunkers and it looks they are holding up nicely, you can relax and appreciate the crispiness of your new notes.

Revealed: The man who will replace Arnab Goswami on Times Now

Editor-in-Chief of English TV news channel Times Now, Arnab Goswami, had resigned from the channel earlier this month. Arnab had virtually single-handedly taken Times Now to a position where it was the undisputed TRP leader in the English news market. Obviously, when it was revealed that he would be leaving, it came as big shock, and everybody had 2 questions:

1. What next for Arnab?

2. What next for Times Now?

In this report, we had tried to guess what Arnab could be upto next. And now it has been revealed what Times Now would do without Arnab.

Some were wondering whether Times Now would follow the route of Times of India, which is much softer on many issues. Of late, Arnab had strictly disassociated himself with other Times Group brands, especially Times of India. He announced that he didn’t support the Aman Ki Asha campaign by the group. So this would fit the narrative.

Social media today was also rife with rumours that Rajdeep Sardesai would be roped in at Times Now. This was probably based on the fact the his wife Sagarika Ghose is already with Times of India and now the entire Times Group could be their fiefdom. It would also go along with the thought that Times Now was seeking to re-position itself.

This of course would have led to Times Now losing a massive (if not  the entire) chunk of their viewer base. While most other English language channels followed the unwritten leftist-liberal rules, Times Now had broken them, and a Rajdeep would have just ensured that Times Now would have become just another channel.

But now, these rumours have been quashed as none other than the Editor of News-X has revealed that Rahul Shivshankar who was an anchor and news editor at News-X would now move to Times Now:

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This will probably be an astute move for both Times Now and Rahul Shivshankar. First of all, Shivshankar has modelled his approach to be very similar to Arnab. Both of them are very aggressive and tow similar editorial lines. So this would seem a natural promotion for him.

Times Now also seems to have realised that they have created a brand positioning for themselves, which cannot and should be changed overnight. Hence they have chosen Shivshankar, to possibly continue the tone and tenor of the channel, as managed by Arnab. It is also interesting to note that Shivshankar was a former Times Now employee and had worked along side Arnab.

Shivshankar though will have huge shoes to fill since Arnab was the sole eyeball-winner on Times Now and it remains to be seen if the audience will continue to be faithful to Times Now. Also, News X isn’t really anywhere close to the “Gold standard” in journalism. So will he be as credible a face as Arnab Goswami to Times Now’s millions of viewers? At least till Arnab starts his new venture, Times Now will hope that Shivshankar manages to catch the pulse of the nation.

After surgical strike on unaccounted cash, next attack on undeclared gold and real estate?

Although the term “Black money” creates an impression of a person hoarding unaccounted hard cash, the truth is slightly different. “Black money” or unaccounted wealth is now not only stored in Cash but also in Gold and Real Estate. One major criticism of the demonetisation scheme is – Oh, the cash component of black money is minor. Most of it is in Gold and Real Estate.

So is the demonetisation scheme unwarranted?

Nope. You had to start somewhere. What-about Gold, What-about benami properties, cannot be the rationale to counter a measure to tackle other forms of ill-gotten wealth. And cash is the only practical starting point from the point of view of maximum compliance.

Could you have gone after gold first or Benami property first? If Yes how? How would you make sure that people suddenly started declaring all undeclared and unaccounted Gold and Benami Property and clean up the mess in 50 days? If some genius has a plan, I would have happy to hear it!

On the contrary, the current plan follows a logical path. It started with IDS and now is the turn of demonetization to clean up unaccounted cash. And now one can go after other form of assets.

Imagine that in February if Modi says – declare all your Gold that you bought without bills and make it white by paying 50% penalty on the value.

Do you think people would do it? I think Yes. For they would have seen what happened to the cash that was not declared. People were forced to burn it, or they faced risk of facing IT notices and paying massive penalty.

There will be fear that what if Modi comes out with some scheme in future where the government could open all your bank lockers to check for undeclared gold? The risk of losing it all will force people to declare those assets to the government during the first declaration drive, if they do it.

The key is the crooks need to be gone after with a carrot and stick approach, and the stick needs to be a real stick, not some imaginary hypothetical twig. Can you imagine the response the IDS scheme would have got if there were clear indications that post the IDS scheme, the Government will bring in demonetisation? Those people who did not opt for it now know that the threats issued during the IDS scheme are not hollow. And this will be playing on their minds, and it is precisely this which needs to be tapped further, to extract the harder-to-crack assets such as Gold and Benami properties.

It’s not easy to get rid of gold or benami properties so easily. You can’t sell your gold because you won’t easily find a buyer who is willing to buy it without any paperwork. Also, there could already be a cash squeeze in the market because of demonetisation.

So people will be stuck with their gold or other undeclared assets in that situation. Those who declare first can save some of it in IDS kind of scheme. Those who don’t risk losing all of it. So when the government comes up with another amnesty scheme targeted especially at gold or real estate, trust that the conversion rate will be better next time.

Gold and Real estate are black money reserves. They are sort of a Savings Account of black money, while Cash is the current account of black money (not saying all cash is black money). Government has gone after the current account of black money. Savings accounts will be the next.

The Coldplay concert finally took place, but here are some who tried to stop it

Chris Martin of Coldplay performs at the American Music Awards at the Microsoft Theater on Sunday, Nov. 22, 2015, in Los Angeles. (Photo by Matt Sayles/Invision/AP)

British rock band Coldplay’s much awaited appearance at a concert this month in Mumbai had run into some trouble recently thanks to some fringe outfits.

The concert, announced earlier in September grabbed media attention when rumours surfaced claiming that tickets would be priced between Rs. 25,000 and Rs. 5 lakh. Later on, the organisers of the event, Global Citizen confirmed that a majority of the tickets would be available free of cost while around one-fifth of them would be available for sale at rather high prices, intended for VIPs. Global Citizen, on their website, describes itself as a “Social Action Platform” to solve social problems with an aim to end Global Poverty by 2030.

The concert held on 19 November in Mumbai, featured Coldplay as the lead act. Interspersed with the music, were global leaders, social workers, celebrities  and business magnates, promoting the 3 sustainable development goals chosen by India, as well as pledging crores of rupees in support to these social causes. Global Citizen’s CEO Hugh Evans, states that the concert is a result of meetings between Coldplay’s lead vocalist Chris Martin (also GC’s Creative Director) and Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

However, the run up to the concert was not smooth. It attracted opposition from two political parties, and the shocking fact is that neither the Shiv Sena nor the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena were among those.

Spokesperson of the Congress, (which has been reduced to a fringe outfit electorally), Sanjay Nirupam, who had termed the Surgical Strike conducted by the Indian Army “fake”, had complained to the State Election Commission asking for the concert to be scrapped, citing it violated the Code of Conduct for the Upcoming Civic Elections.

He alleged that the BJP-led Government of Maharashtra, which had given a 75% concession to the organisers to hold the event at MMRDA Grounds in Bandra-Kurla Complex. He claimed that the BJP was using this for political gains by generating goodwill among the public. The Congress’ ally, the NCP too chimed in asking for the concert asking for it to be postponed.

Nirupam, and his associates in the INC and NCP however, were wrong. The Election Code of Conduct, which came into effect after polling dates were announced on 17 October is not valid for the districts of Mumbai (City and Suburban) and Thane. The Mumbai Metropolitan Region (MMR) comprising of seven municipal corporations, mostly within these three districts, is set to go for polls only in early 2017.

Perhaps some in the party realised that it was a futile fight, which is why Congress leader Milind Deora tweeted out stating that it was “unwise” to demand any ban on the concert. Eventually, Deora even took to the stage at the concert, with Poonam Mahajan and Aditya Thakeray, to spread the word for the social causes taken up.

One may wonder if the Congress planned to rake this controversy up only to blame the BJP government later, if the concert was delayed or cancelled. In the wake of the recent controversy surrounding the release of Karan Johar’s Ae Dil Hai Mushkil, any delay or cancellation of the concert would have reflected very badly on the Fadnavis government.

Global Citizen had further stated that it planned to organise more such events for the next 15 years with this year being the first one. A ban or rescheduling of the event would have sent out an incorrect message that India is not the right destination for global concerts. Maybe Congress leaders like Sanjay Nirupam had this in mind?

Another fringe group that targeted the event was the Aam Aadmi Party. Party convener for Maharashtra, Anjali Damania went on to file a PIL in the Bombay High Court. Why? The Tax exemption granted by the Fadnavis government. But the exemption was justified as the event was of charitable nature, for majority of the tickets were given out free.

Despite such hurdles, the concert took place. There were usual rants about why PM Modi sent out a message by a few social media commentators, but in the end, India could host an event of international standards.

Rajdeep Sardesai places his prejudices over ethics of journalism

Rajdeep Sardesai’s personal views for Modi are no more a secret. From remote villages in Bihar to posh corridors of Madison Square, Rajdeep — as a preacher, as a boxer, as a saint, as an anchor — has left no stone unturned to express his visceral hatred for Modi. India, as a democracy, has always tried to protect personal beliefs and opinions of individuals. After 2014, it was feared that Modi government will strangulate freedom of expression, but ironically, the attacks on Modi didn’t attenuate, rather they grew manifold.

However, Rajdeep is much more than an individual opinion holder; he is an opinion maker. He heads and has headed top-positions of media houses which act as eyes and ears of the nation. With such pivotal accountability, one is expected to act prudent and responsible. Sadly, Rajdeep differs to maintain that, again and again.

As expected, Rajdeep has been very critical of the demonetisation scheme from the first day. By the time Modi finished his speech, Rajdeep tweeted his scepticism:

Since then, his concerns and criticisms have remained intact in various forms. From subjugation of lower classes to sufferings of patient undergoing medical emergency, his tweets have covered a wide spectrum of narratives.

A recent article published in Navhind Times, a Goan daily, claims that Sardesai pointed out that sixty per cent of the country’ population has been troubled by  demonetisation. Sardesai also added that few media houses are providing biased news on it.Sardesai

Interestingly, on-the-field reactions to Rajdeep’s queries are substantially different from tweets published by Rajdeep. The following video demonstrates how Rajdeep was trolled when he tried to nudge people on the “inconvenience” factor. Contrary to the views published in the Navhind Times, Rajdeep was contradicted by all his interviewees, who expressed that they are willing to take the inconvenience.

If these were the responses received by Rajdeep, he should answer how did he arrive at the 60 per cent figure.

If these were the responses received by Rajdeep, he must answer where is the objectivity gone from his journalism.

If these were the responses received by Rajdeep, he must answer why is he mixing facts with prejudices.

It is also odd to note that Rajdeep chose to refer to a news report in an unknown Gujarati publication in April 2016, which, as he claimed, knew about the move of scrapping Rs 500 and Rs 1000 notes eight months before the announcement. It is odd because, India Today, the same organisation where Rajdeep works, had debunked this here. They revealed that the “news” was published on 1st April 2016, also known as April Fool’s day, and the editor of the daily, Kirit Gantara himself confirmed that it was a prank, adding that “It is just a coincidence that the Modi government took such a decision. It’s a sheer coincidence.”

The Press Council of India states that the fundamental objective of journalism is to serve the people with news, views, comments and information on matters of public interest in a fair, accurate, unbiased, sober and decent manner.

In fact, Rajdeep knows the answer, he always knew it.

 

Kejriwal sinks to new low – shows picture of dead robber, claims he is innocent citizen

Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal is desperate to prove that Narendra Modi’s demonetisation drive is causing widespread death and destruction in India. He has been repeating an exaggerated number of 55 deaths, linking all of them to demonetisation even though relatives of the dead claim otherwise.

A couple of days back he called a BBC journalist dishonest because he cross-questioned Kejriwal’s claim of 55 deaths. Today, he went a step ahead and spread a repulsive rumour about a young man who committed suicide because he couldn’t get cash from bank.

This is what he tweeted:

Rumour mongering by Arvind Kejriwal
Is the worst of Arvind Kejriwal still to come?

Even looking at the picture itself, one could sense that something was terribly wrong, and it can’t be what Kejriwal claimed to be. Can a person commit suicide in full public view in a public place like a commercial bank while no one around comes to stop him?

But when you are driven by an agenda and are full of hate, you become blind to facts. This is what happened with Kejriwal.

The picture that he had tweeted was of a bank robber who had hanged himself in the wee hours of Saturday after police surrounded him. The incident happened in Satna district of Madhya Pradesh and was reported by many media organizations such as Dainik Bhaskar, Nai Duniya, Navbharat Times, Times of India, and ABP News among others.

The robber, identified as a man named Dharmendra Patel, is reported to be a history-sheeter and has been arrested in such cases earlier too. He was trapped inside the bank by local villagers who brought down the shutter from outside while he was trying to steal cash and valuables kept inside the bank. His activities are also reported to have been captured by a CCTV camera.

This fact was pointed out to Kejriwal by many on Twitter, such as the following tweet, but Kejriwal didn’t correct himself or offered any apology for spreading rumour and panic. The above tweet was on his Twitter page at the time of filing this report (which is more than an hour after Kejriwal tweeted):


Although Arvind Kejriwal had been spreading misinformation in “is is true?” style for long, looks like now he has decided to spread lies and rumours just like his supporters do. For example, this Facebook page, apparently managed by AAP supporters, spread the same lie about the above incident.

Such irresponsible and ignorant behaviour by the AAP supremo confirms what the Union Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad had told about him yesterday:

But does Kejriwal care?

Demonetisation drive – some positive outcomes in the short term too

When it comes to demonetisation, it looks universally accepted that in the short term, the positives would be low and negatives high. Everyone has come to know about the negatives, be it the long queues or news of business slumping.

The scheme has also attracted a lot of manufactured negativity which includes a huge spurt in rumor mongering (OpIndia busted quite a few of those, but honestly we couldn’t keep track of all of them) and wrongly blaming the demonetisation scheme for some unfortunate deaths.

To steer away from all the negativity, here are some positive outcomes of the scheme. For example, look at these incidents:

  • Cash worth around 73 lakhs were seized from two cars by police near Nashik, Maharashtra. The cash fully comprised of the now defunct 500 and 1000 rupees notes.
  • Moving from the West to the East, it was reported that cash worth around 50 lakh was seized from a car in Guwahati.
  • Now moving to the South. 45 lakhs in old notes were seized from a car, this time in Puducherry.
  • Finally we make way to the North. Cash worth 30 lakhs in old notes were seized from a car in Ludhiana.
  • Also why should cars have all the fun! Cash recovered from trains too, that is, from people trying to smuggle it in trains.
  • One from Mamata Banerjee’s territory where 80 lakhs were seized from two men in Kolkata.
  • And now cash recovered from Post Office employee in Jharkhand.

The above examples (this is just indicative list, not exhaustive, many more such examples exist) dealt with police keeping the order of the law by seizing the notes. The notes in the above cases, till date driving the economy in black market, would finally end up at the RBI which will then proceed to destroy the defunct notes and issue new ones.

Now below are some examples where people decided to take matters into their own hands and save RBI the trouble of destroying the defunct notes. Macro-economically speaking its not a bad idea as for every piece of note obliterated all the other existing notes gain some value plus destroying the notes is equivalent to giving the notes back to the RBI (which is already happening):

  • The story started here, sacks full of burnt notes were found in Bareilly, Uttar Pradesh just a day after the government announced the demonetisation scheme.
  • After Dhoni’s biopic, Jamsedhpur was again in the news when sackful of torn notes worth 25 lakhs were recovered from its drain.
  • A garbage dump in Pune was gifted cash worth 50,000 in the from of Rs 1000 notes. The only difference between these notes and the usual trash in the garbage is that the usual trash still has some value.
  • Another from Guwahati where a whopping 3.5 crores worth of notes were found swimming in the city drains.
  • Finally some people chose to return the now dead notes to River Ganga probably in the hope that they might attain salvation.

Again, this is just an indicative list and not exhaustive. You can scan the newspapers (or Google News) and find many such incidents being reported on a daily basis. These definitely can be called some short term positive outcomes of the demonetisation.

Apart from the law or the offender himself seizing or destroying the black money, some other impacts or side-effects we have seen are:

  • Government employees being caught for taking bribes in new notes, such as in Maharashtra, Orissa, Madhya Pradesh, and Gujarat.
  • There has been reports that people are returning or cancelling their dowry demands after demonetisation!
  • Small vendors and businesses are moving towards adopting technology like mobile wallets or card payments.

Though all this does bring us back to to the central subject of demonetisation and its effects on our economy. For now you can read this SWOT analysis of the of the demonetisation scheme, thereby giving the reader a much needed insight about what the scheme may and may not achieve.

Pathetic journalism – when media thought you can get STDs from ATMs

ATM
Bank ATM

In a s̶e̶l̶f̶ destructive attempt to malign a government initiative, the Indian media has once again unmasked their own “illiteracy” (can we still call it a mask after the million holes put in it by OpIndia?) and spread panic and rumour in the process. I am referring to some of the reports in the media, which claimed that ATMs may cause STDs (Sexually Transmitted Diseases)!

I first broke into laughter. It soon turned into horror as I wondered what exactly these media people were doing to those ATMs to get STDs! And how?! Ewww!

But worse, there still are people who believe the mainstream media, trusting them with veracity of information.

But I don’t trust them. So I looked at the source of this stupid news item. They all seemed to have picked it up from a news service IANS, but the ‘STD spreading’ headlines were the work of horror by our their own editorial teams. India Today even went so far as to link it to the “note ban”. Economic Times also linked it indirectly, but they didn’t put STD in the headline.

ATM STD news by India Today
Sensationalism or plain stupidity?

First, the facts:

These news reports quote a research to back their sensationalist headlines. The research quoted was conducted in New York by a biologist. What the media understood from the research was that ATMs are potential source of STI causing pathogens. The spin is that the pathogens are present on ATMs.

But this micro-habitat is also present on any other object that is commonly used by public; for example, door of a cab, bus, metro railings, office desk and even toilet seat at your home.

Yet, how often are we visiting venereologists after coming in contact with these objects? These pathogens can cause anything as small as common cold to grave illness like Tuberculosis. But the chances of contracting STD are negligible.

What is an STI? Sexually transmitted infections (STIs) are infections that are spread primarily through person-to-person “sexual” contact. I am still wondering how the i̶n̶t̶e̶l̶l̶e̶c̶t̶u̶a̶l̶s̶ of our society are having fun with Automated Teller Machine that they are fearing about getting STD?

The truth is that the microbes mentioned in the news reports are the ones that are frequently present either as normal flora of our body or are result of unclean hands (something that is not the result of demonetization, at least).

News article says that microbial communities extracted from the ATMs in New York were those found in food, environment, residual DNA from meals, Lactobacillus (which is usually found in decomposing plants or milk products). As far as basic science is concerned, you can be assured that none of them can cause STI.

Study quoted in article also agrees that “the most common identified sources of microbes on the keypads were from household surfaces such as televisions, restrooms, kitchens and pillows, as well as from bony fish, mollusks and chicken.”

So aren’t we struggling with more risk in our own cosy beds than those shabby ATMs?

So how exactly did the media convince the ATMs to spread STDs?

According to the news, “the research team found a parasite typically seen in the gut of humans, along with a species closely related to the human parasite Trichomonas Vaginalis (TV), which can potentially cause STD.”

Now, the question is that how a species “closely related” to TV became TV itself and started causing STDs? Is it the new sci-fi parasite? It is like saying that anopheles which is a malarial vector, can also cause zika or dengue just because it is also a mosquito. But that never happens and so similar parasite cannot become TV and cause STD.

More importantly, when I went through the original research, I found that they could not confirm the presence of TV. Researchers in original article said that they were not able to differentiate Trichomonas vaginalis from closely related zoonotic species using 18S rRNA loci alone and in their study they could not confirm the likely source of eukaryotic pathogen species.

The other time they mentioned about TV where they said that it is from avian (birds) source: “A species closely related to the human parasite Trichomonas vaginalis that was originally isolated from avian sources were also recovered from ATM keypads.”

From this we can infer two things:

1. The researchers could not confirm the presence of pathogen that can cause STI.
2. The tumult created by media headlines was alarmist and gloom-mongering.

But you can’t expect the media to be responsible enough to go into the details of research reports before spreading rumours and panic. Indian media will conveniently blame the agencies they source the news from. But remember, the headlines are all theirs.

When they see something that sounds too strange to be true, you would expect them to crosscheck with some experts. But, they see STD and ATM in one report and were more than happy to run them with alarmist headlines, especially at a time when people are thronging ATMs, with some even linking it to the “note ban”.

Now you know, that it is actually the media that is spreading STD (Stupidly Through Discourse?) rather than the ATMs.

Arvind Kejriwal calls BBC journalist ‘dishonest’ for questioning his claims

Angry Kejriwal

Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal has teamed up with Mamata Banerjee these days and is in the forefront on attacking the Modi government over the demonetisation move. Both the leaders jointly addressed a rally in Delhi recently and have threatened mass agitations if the government doesn’t roll back its decision.

Both the leaders wear simple clothes and draw their popularity from being ‘aam aadmi’ lifestyle and mannerisms. Both of the leaders claim not to be communists, but their rhetoric and policies are often on the left side of the ideological divide. And cadres of respective parties of both the leaders are largely made up of people who got disillusioned with Congress.

Now in yet another similarity with Mamata Banerjee, Arvind Kejriwal has started showing petulance and reductionism that the West Bengal Chief Minister is often accused of. Just like Mamata declared anyone “Maoist” or a “CPM cadre” for asking uncomfortable questions, Kejriwal has started declaring people “dishonest” for not toeing his claims and narrative.

This facet of Kejriwal’s character came to the fore yesterday when he declared a BBC journalist “dishonest” and “lacking courage” when he dared to question some claims made by the AAP supremo in an interview.

In the interview, Kejriwal claimed that 55 people in India had died while standing in queues outside banks and ATMs. When the BBC journalist wondered how could he link all the deaths to demonetisation only – a fact that this OpIndia.com article also highlights – Kejriwal got angry and declared him dishonest:


During the entire interview, Kejriwal’s behaviour and body language was intimidating and aggressive, and he was not willing to answer counter questions about his claims. Instead he made up for that by accusing the journalist of being dishonest and bringing bad name to the legacy of BBC.

This belligerent behaviour is a sea change from the Arvind Kejriwal one saw during the Anna Hazare days, when he was most willing to talk to the media and would answer all kind of questions without losing his cool or indulging in character assassinations of those who questioned him.

Also, it is interesting that Kejriwal is insisting of an exaggerated and inflated data of 55 deaths due to demonetisation, while his own government is removing the official data of deaths due to dengue and chikungunya.

Why does Vir Sanghvi block on Twitter if you mention words like Rail Neer or Mira Road?

Earlier this week when everyone was busy discussing effects of demonetisation and predicting either gloom or glory for the nation, author and columnist Shefali Vaidya decided to lighten the somber mood and decided to test the effects of a word on journalist Vir Sanghvi:

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Soon people, who probably spent an exhausting day in a bank queue somewhere, found a way to unwind.

One just retweeted the above tweet, and…

For those rare ones who still can’t guess what happened there, “Radia” refers to the corporate lobbyist and PR professional Niira Radia, whose telephonic conversations with many journalists were leaked back in year 2010. These journalists were heard either taking editorial “suggestions” from Radia for their columns or trading information that presumably was passed on to politicians i.e. acting as courier in the lobbying process. Some others were heard talking usual gossip about how entire system, including the judiciary, was corrupt and compromised.

The journalists featuring in these tapes were Barkha Dutt, Vir Sanghvi, MK Venu, Prabhu Chawla, and many others. While Barkha was alleged to have acted as a courier between Congress and DMK for ministerial berth lobbying, Sanghvi was heard agreeing to “dress up” his column to suit a corporate line. While Barkha didn’t claim that the tapes were edited, though she defended her conduct, Sanghvi claimed that the tapes were mischievously edited. He later sent the tapes to some private forensic lab and got a clean chit for himself.

However, many Twitterati don’t buy this clean chit, and they keep ragging poor (not literally) Sanghvi by mentioning Radia in his mentions, after which he blocks those accounts.

Like this tweet. Obviously you will be blocked when you mention that word in all caps:

But some people became a bit creative. They tried words that sounded similar to Niira Radia. But Sanghvi could sense what was going on:

Even at 2 AM in the night, people were bowling and Sanghvi was blocking all their yorkers or googlies:

The game continued:

Some got blocked for writing Radia in ‘drunk’ language:

Some didn’t write anything similar sounding, in fact they praised Sanghvi, but the senior journalist knew what they were up to:

And this one is just too much:

As it appeared, this was not for the first this ‘Radia game’ was played with Vir Sanghvi. Earlier in February this year, the same game was played, and the results were no different:

Even OpIndia had joined the fun then, though without tagging Vir Sanghvi:

It is relieving to know that this Twitter game was played again only after so many months, and that’s how it should be, not becoming a daily targeted ragging and tagging exercise.

But looks like Vir Sanghvi can escape playing this game anytime in future now. He can and should use Twitter’s latest feature that allows people to mute tweets which contain specific words. In order to aid Mr. Sanghvi, here are some other rhyming words and phrases to Niira Radia which he can include in his mute list – When Rome was burning, Radial tires, Kheera, Odiya, Barkha, and Sonam Gupta (because why the hell not).

Visceral hate of Pankaj Mishra stinking in garbage of New York Times

Narendra Modi in rally

Pankaj Mishra, a novelist and essayist, and alleged to be internationally acclaimed, is back with his anti-India and anti-Modi rhetoric in New York Times, which misses no opportunity to paint India as a society still living in dark ages waiting for a white saviour.

Pankaj Mishra is known for bashing every Indian thing, as he has internalized the western viewpoints about India in such a manner that a person who is reading his articles for the first time will get an impression that he doesn’t have any connection with India. Colonialism has left such profound impact on his thought process that he can’t escape from it even if he wants.

In his latest exceedingly boring and rhetorical essay, which is epitome of verbosity, titled “The Incendiary Appeal of Demagoguery in Our Time” and published in New York Times, he tries to explain the rise of Narendra Modi and Donald Trump by his own sociopolitical understanding. But as expected, instead of explaining the rise in objective or even in biased manner, he indulges himself in bashing every Indian thing, which is only the expressions of a person who vehemently hates his roots and tries to get flattered by Western intelligentsia.

For example, he writes:

“The stink first became unmistakable in India in May 2014, when Narendra Modi, a member of an alt-right Hindu organization inspired by fascists and Nazis, was elected prime minister. Like Donald Trump, Mr. Modi rose to power demonizing ethnic-religious minorities, immigrants and the establishment media, and boasting about the size of a body part.”

This is the opening remark by Mishra in his essay. Mishra doesn’t even understand what alt-right means and what either RSS or BJP stands for.

Alt-right movement is a very recent phenomenon in USA who are against feminism, political correctness, Zionism and believe in free market economics. Compared to that movement, RSS is at least 90 years old now which seeks to promote Hindu nationalism, which is a movement of cultural revival where a nation will be founded on the bases of sociocultural reality instead of ethnic or linguistic reality, which happens to be the case with most of the nations of Europe. On economic front, RSS’s view coincides with centre of left economists.

Mishra makes time-travel a reality if we believe in his hypothesis of RSS being inspired from a movement which will emerge 70 years later from its foundation. His rhetoric of RSS being inspired from Fascists and Nazis are crude lies considering the fact that nobody from RSS has mentioned about these two ideologies for last 70 years. Integral Humanism of Deendayal Upadhyay and Nationalism of Shyama Prasad Mukherjee have been the guiding doctrines for RSS in recent years.

Coming to other parts of his sentence, which is comprised of jargons without any substantial proof, gives idea about his inherent hatred for Modi. The term ‘ethno-religious minorities’ is incorrect because religious minorities of India have same ethnicity as of majority of Indians.

Mishra couldn’t produce a single sentence in which Modi threatened minorities or demonized immigrants. Probably Mishra meant ‘Bangladeshi immigrants’ when he writes that Modi demonized immigrants. The truth is inconvenient which Mishra won’t be able to digest. Modi indeed talked about “illegal” Bangladeshi immigrants who are involved in every sort of crime in West Bengal and North Eastern States but Mishra can’t differentiate between ‘legal’ and ‘illegal’ immigrants in his profound hatred towards Modi.

His comment on Modi boasting about a particular body size demonstrates his alienation from India and its languages. 56 (chhappan) is a very common idiom in Hindi which means showing courage but Mishra fails to comprehend such common thing. It will be too much to expect from him to understand the India that lives in the hinterlands (chhappan chhuri to chhappan bhog), but least he could have done is to recall the Bollywood movie Ab Tak Chhappan.

In the coming paragraphs, Mishra goes on to quote Jean Paul, gives examples of various parts of the world to make his argument substantial and coherent but that’s nothing more than the hollow rhetoric to prove a hypothesis which can’t be proved. He denounces India’s economic progress since 1991, writes off the horrors and crimes of dynasty rule of India, claims Digital India is only a propaganda where tech billionaires and politicians meet, criticises Indian media because it tells the story of India’s rise sometimes (he calls Economic Times chauvinistic), quotes writers who are expert on India in the same manner as Karl Marx and Max Weber were experts on Indian economy etc.

He proposes his hypothesis, which explains the rise of leaders like Trump and Modi, blaming it to the rotten mainstream institutions, but in the same breath criticises the leaders who criticised the same mainstream institutions. Mishra reveals much about his cognitive dissonance in his hypothesis when tries to be an intellectual.

“Following authoritarian ruling parties in Hungary and Poland, and a brazenly despotic one in Turkey, India’s Hindu nationalists, a fringe outfit for much of the country’s existence, have swiftly occupied the state, staffing chief institutions with loyalists while intimidating nonstate actors like NGOs, journalists, writers and artists.”

This excerpt from his essay is the classical example of labelling everything from right spectrum as fascist and authoritarian without going in detail or backing his claims with any evidence.

What he terms as ‘a fringe outfit for much of the country’s existence’ is actually the group which gave a clear majority to BJP and Modi. Apparently, democracy doesn’t remain a democracy anymore when his favourite liberal candidate doesn’t win.

A clear mandate delivered by people to BJP has been termed as ‘occupation of state’ as if BJP seized the power through a coup. In practice, Mishra’s own clan beginning from political class of Lenin to intellectual class having parasitical hold on institutions like academia and arts, is expert in occupying the state. When it comes to staffing the chief institutions with loyalists, as Mishra alleges, perhaps he’s referring to the growth his own clan.

In last 60 years, every institution has been filled with so-called liberals, pseudo-seculars, and communists by the dynasty, but that doesn’t get qualified as ‘lobbyists’ for some unknown reasons. When crackdown happens on NGOs for not following the rule of the law of country where they operate, people like Mishra are quick to call it ‘intimidation’ as if non-state actors are beyond the law. When the lies of agenda driven fifth column writers and journalists are exposed by people, it’s intimidation, while banning the book of Rushdie and threatening Taslima Nasreen are acts of promoting writing, considering these happened in dynasty regime.

Last but not the least significant, Mishra categorizes leaders like Modi, Putin, Trump etc in the category of ‘demagouge’. A demagouge is the leader who gains popularity by exploiting prejudice and ignorance among the common people rather than using rational argument.

Considering that Modi rose in power by promising a better and more efficient government which will stimulate economic growth, how he qualifies to be a demagouge can only be explained in Mishra’s own imaginary world. For him, the desire for prosperity and better lifestyle must be prejudice, for Modi promised these things only.

If voting for someone who promises an efficient system with better governance is ignorance, voting for an infinitely corrupt regime must be a rational and well informed choice for Mishra.

The true demagouges in the world were Lenin, Mao, Fidel Castro, Adolf Hitler, Benito Mussolini, Hugo Chavez, etc. who exploited the prejudices of the people, and a majority of these are figures who inspire people like Mishra.

Mishra’s hate for Modi and India has continued unabated for a long time which is propagated by publications such as New York Times, Bloomberg, The Guardian, etc. The myth propagated by authors like Mishra must be debunked to save the discourse from further distortion.

SWOT analysis of the demonetisation move

In an exclusive broadcast, PM Modi shook the country by announcing surgical strike on fake currency and black money, unparalleled in its scale and scope, by demonetising Rs. 500 and 1,000 notes effective from 9th November, midnight. Note that this came exactly 27 years after the fall of the Berlin wall.

We are in the second week since this decision came. The outcome cannot be accurately predicted, neither can the sound implementation be ensured amidst such large-scale disruption, especially in a complex, multi-layered society like India. One way to analyse such high impact policy proposal is to compare its expected benefits with the expected costs.

It is the time that we do an in-depth analysis of the strengths and weaknesses that are integral to this hard-hitting measure. We must also analyse the broader opportunities and threats to identify the potential problems or say, the cost to the society that needs to be recognised and possibly addressed. We shall also look into the politics of this move.

STRENGTHS:

Black Money and Counterfeits: Two primary reasons were touted for this drastic move – to hit at black money and to check counterfeits. This move left the parallel black economy choked and gasping. The elimination of fake currency is inevitable, and one also hopes that a check is well in place while these notes are routed through banking channels. It will be a tremendous achievement.

Countering Terror & Crime: While the government has clearly pointed out the use of fake currencies by terror outfits, some have spoken about uses of cash by criminals. This move has already halted many terror operations and has the potential to force a significant shift in the terror infrastructure.

As the large chunk of Hawala money is delivered to separatist leaders and local politicians to fuel protesters, the four-month-long unrest in the valley is also getting wiped out in the absence of cash inflow, security agencies believe. Besides, the lack of Hawala money would also hit the Maoists activities and other insurgent groups across India, especially in the northeast region, intelligence officials said.

Timing: No timing is perfect, but in hind-sight, the timing seems obvious. If we connect the dots, the very first decision of Modi Govt was to establish a SIT on Black Money. Then came the massive roll-out of the Pradhan Mantri Jan-Dhan Yojana (PMJDY) nearly completing all citizens’ access to bank accounts. The next was crack down on hoarders /foreign accounts (approximately RS. 80,000 Cr was collected). Then followed the Income Declaration Scheme, with a deadline of 30th Sept 2016. Another window of opportunity was given to people to declare their amassed wealth. (Rs. 65,000 Cr collected) Now, if you still have the Black Money, the government will ensure that either you declare and become mainstream or else face the hammer. Commendable chronology!

Reformist Stance: Demonetisation is not a foolproof measure, but it attacks the black money problem with unprecedented force and at multiple layers. If the objectives are achieved through sound implementation, this will show a strong signal about India’s anti-corruption drive and also its reformist stance.

WEAKNESSES:

Preparedness: The entire banking and postal system were caught unaware. The government says that it will now take two more weeks to configure all ATMs. The situation is testing in small towns, most ATMs are still not dispensing cash, and some branches are easily running out of cash. It seems that the planning ahead of such massive event lacked matching preparedness.

But the government could not have stashed large cash in banks and reconfigured ATMs. It would have led to the corrupt getting wind of the announcement and overnight getting much of their illicit wealth converted.

Logistics: There is always the risk that the infusion of the new currency notes is not sufficient to satiate the demand for currency. The government has fixed certain limits, which for all practical purposes seem moderately small.

Unaccounted Wealth: There are many means to store wealth; in cash, foreign currency, gold, real estate, and several other instruments. Out of which hard cash is relatively unattractive as it earns a negative rate of return, whereas, other modes of unaccounted wealth are laundered, and becomes much harder to identify. So this strike is only on black-cash and not on the entire parallel economy per se.

Cutting Corruption: Demonetisation does not promise that there will not be any future corruption. Crooks are always creative and will find ways to circumvent this demonetisation. At best, this is a reset button.

Sluggish Economy: This process would increase bank deposits with an obligation to pay interest. Can the financial institutions mobilize these funds fast enough and be able to disburse as loans, especially in a sluggish economy?

OPPORTUNITIES:

Windfall Profit: The Chief Economic Advisor of the government has argued that this decision would lead to transfer from black money holders to the RBI and then to the government. For the cash that does not return, should the RBI simply decide to reduce its liabilities and create a profit? It won’t be unwise in this exceptional case of the fight against black money but may send wrong messages. RBI may take some time and carry the liabilities on its balance sheet for the foreseeable future but should not announce this in advance.

High cost of Future Crimes: Cash facilitates crime because it is anonymous and big bills are easy to carry. By inflicting a cost, demonetisation cripples the ability to engage in future corruption. It is far easier indulging in crime with substantial cash in hand. The costs of crime will become much higher and will have an indirect but powerful impact on future corrupt practices committed with the help of currency.

Checks on Loose Sectors: Black money spawns in an economy in areas where the checks and balances are weak and have larger cash component in their transactions like commodity hoarding and trading, movie production, campaign finance, and of course real estate. Since liquidity dries up, hoarders’ and black-marketers’ holding power collapses leading to prices collapse. Demonetisation will result in a correction in these markets, either by a reduction in prices or a reduction in business. We will see the outcome in time to come. However, these corrections will move the market to equilibrium reflecting genuine demand and supply in the real economy.

Less-Cash Economy: Cash greatly facilitates transactions and hence we should aim for a less-cash economy and not cash-less. A less-cash economy is an excellent balance between maintaining ease of financial operations and also curbing malpractices.

Financial Inclusion: It also provides a boost to the government’s financial inclusion drive, pushing more households towards efficient banking and payment infrastructure.

THREATS:

The Cost of Harassment: A massive logistics exercise was undertaken causing countrywide panic and confusion. If the government does not invest all its energies into replenishing and re-calibrating ATMs, festering inconvenience will lead to backlash and has potential to undo the intended good work. Daily wage earners, truck drivers don’t have much time to stand in line every day. People can only do this for a limited time. It will also give the opposition a stronger opportunity to carry sustained attacks.

Lower Economic Activity: Overall the adoption of electronic payment instruments is slow, and the infrastructure is weak. During the transition period, the shortage of the lubricant of economic activity disrupts the smooth working of the economy. As a consequence, in coming weeks, business is likely to be sluggish. In informal labour markets, daily wage labourers are not able to get enough work. Many other markets that depend on full or partial cash payment are also affected. These costs will show up in the form of lower GDP (it counts all output, with tax evasion or not) during the affected period.

Panic and Confusion: This is the biggest threat. The political discourse is at the lowest. The opposition parties have been quick to fuel and magnify public annoyance over the teething problems. Misinformation and confusion is being propagated on an hourly basis to see to it that somehow this move is unsuccessful. Even majority of the TV channels, instead of being helpful or providing tips to people, are indulging in fear-mongering. OpIndia.com has busted many such rumour mongering.

THE POLITICS:

Some have accused the government of taking the decision because of electoral considerations. Today in India, there is a mass hysteria about black money. The electorate has given clear signals that this is one of the issues that they care the most. It could be the real context of this calculated political gamble.

Those backing the government are saying this is a genuine attempt to solve a massive long overdue problem. Even those who do not support the government agree on the scale and seriousness of the problem, while they disagree on intentions and means.

The political capital invested in this is enormous. All political parties will be hit badly, including the BJP. It incidentally will hit BJP’s one of the core support base in the short run, who are mostly traders.

CONCLUSION:

The biggest hurdle in India is the lack of State capacity. But the government and the RBI are taking steps to make life easier for people and should flood the Banks and ATMs with new notes without delay so that panic is removed.

The next few months are going to be painful and disturbing and should be seen as an emerging economy trying hard to reform its corrupt self. Our generation has not seen a revolutions. Fortunately, they are witnessing as well as indulging in it. Watchmen, carpenters, maids, shopkeepers, cooks, sweepers, almost all are showing relatively calm, positive and mature understanding of the after effect.

No defining change comes without some pain. Behind the joy and hope of unification of two Germany’s, lurked the pain of actually merging the two. It took the deep reserves of the famous German grit and many painful years to not just recover, but emerge as the one of the world’s chief economic engine.

When an economy is suffering from cancer, the only way to deal with it is painful doses of chemotherapy. With intense follow-up and awareness campaigns, the government can have people on its side even during their continuing hardship.

10 reasons that faux-economists give to derail the demonetisation programme

The recent move to demonetise high-value notes by the Government of India has met with a fair amount of scepticism, criticism and opposition. The move has given a tremendous rise into armchair economists overnight, many of whom are opposing the entire move for reasons which we’re sure even they don’t understand.

Here are ten reasons that they give to call the programme a failure, with point by point explanation of why the reason is stupid.

1. Cash forms an insignificant amount in black money

Argument: data from tax raids conducted in 2012-13 shows that around 6% of money recovered was undisclosed. What this means is that only 6% of the money that was recovered was black money. So only 6% black money in the economy.

However, these fake economists forget one thing: Black money is undisclosed income. Undisclosed income is income off the records. There is no data on how much undisclosed income is actually there. If the IT sleuths have not found more than 6%, it does not there is no more than 6% black money, it simply means those who have it, have hidden it in some other ways. Now they can’t keep that money hidden as they are no longer legal and valid.

While it is true that not all black money remains as cash, it is also true not everyone who has it has access to a Swiss Bank account, not everyone has bought Gold or Property with it. Remember AAP MLA Kartar Singh who was caught with 130 crore rupees in his house? There are some people who claim that storing cash is difficult due to storage issues and hazards. Do you speak with experience?

2. Counterfeit currency is NOT that big a problem

A study by the Indian Statistical Institute in 2015 said that around 400 crore rupees in fake notes was in circulation at any given point in time. This is used by many to claim that only it is only 0.025% of our budget. The issue here is that, like in the previous case, there is AT LEAST 400 crore. It could be higher. There are printing presses in Peshawar and Karachi in Pakistan, both of which are exclusively used to print Indian currency.

Haven’t we already seen how this is troubling Malda, called India’s fake currency capital? And problem is not just magnitude of fake currency, but the actions it enables – terrorism, naxalism, and other criminal activities.

3. There was rise in Bank Deposits in the months prior to the announcement

Possibly the most uneducated statement, the rise in bank deposits was confirmed by the government as deposits made due to settlement of arrears from the 7th Pay Commission.

4. This drive is to whitewash black money

Converting black money to white isn’t that easy. Anyone returning bank notes will be under scrutiny and the IT sleuths WILL find out whether the cash was black or white.

5. The cause of black money is not being solved

Agreed, but taking out black money from circulation is where it starts. Next, using the data from those who have come forward to hand over extra cash and comparing with their Tax Records. Rooting out black money and those in possession isn’t an overnight task and this is just the first step.

6. Done to derive political mileage

The government is being accused of using this for political mileage and creating drama. So they agree that this move is something being appreciated by people and thus can result in political mileage? Then are those reports about massive inconvenience to people leading to popular resentments are untrue? Maybe. As we have seen how reports about deaths due to demonetisation were largely exaggerated and manipulated.

Furthermore, the drive could actually hit the BJP politically, because a bulk of the BJP’s support and votebank comes from middle class traders and businessmen dealing in cash. So what’s exactly is the argument?

7. This government was unprepared

Hindsight is always 20/20. And yes, the execution could have been better, and the government is changing a few rules to make things less troublesome to people. For example, families with weddings planned soon are now being allowed to withdraw up to 2.5 lakhs.

However, it doesn’t mean nothing was done to prepare for it. The government had started the process of getting people to open Jan Dhan accounts as well getting UPI into action to try and keep disruption as minimal as possible.

8. The 2000 note will bring in more hoarding and black money

Weren’t you saying a while ago that there is hardly any black money?

9. Not prepared for a cashless economy

As stated earlier, Jan Dhan, UPI, all were set up specifically so that we could slowly gravitate to a cashless economy. Demonetisation was the catalyst required to facilitate the move.

10. Economic activity is tanking

Economic activity will suffer in the short run due to consumption being suppressed, but not in the long run. Ask any economist. This move would not have been possible without the RBI, whose Governor Urijit Patel is a a Harvard and Yale graduate.

A short passage on ‘introspection’ from a ‘right winger’ to ‘liberals’

“The meaning of nationalism has been reduced to a joke by fans of this regime. Anyone criticising the government is branded anti-national. This is a dangerous trend that can’t be good for healthy democracy at all.”

So said a self-declared liberal person. And it’s not a new grouse. This has been being repeated ever since the JNU incident came to light in the beginning of this year, where the government unwittingly made a lout like Kanhaiya Kumar a hero for the self-declared liberals.

The JNU incident hurt people like Rajdeep Sardesai so much that he declared himself an anti-national. The jibes about being anti-national and counter jibes at nationalism have been flowing fast and thick since then. Recently Filmmaker Anurag Kashap went “btw, Bharat mata ki jai”, and latest case is nationalism appearing even in debates on demonetisation.

I am not going to define nationalism or debate demonetisation here. In fact, I will start by saying that I agree with the self-declared liberal person who wrote what I quoted in the beginning of this article.

The jibe of “you are anti national” has indeed been over done by some, and on occasions, it has bordered on being ridiculous. Say, someone criticising the Modi government for not executing the demonetisation in a better fashion is by no stretch of imagination an anti-national.

In fact, even wanting to see Pakistani actors in Indian movies is not anti-national. It’s stupid, and maybe dangerously stupid, but not anti-national.

“Anti national” is a very serious term, and it shouldn’t be used casually. People on the so-called Right side of the ideological divide, where I have placed myself consciously, should realize it.

My liberal friend, what I just did was ‘introspection’.

An act that simply appears absent amongst your tribe. I had said the same a year ago in an article on my blog, and things have not changed since then. Ironically, it’s the “conservatives” who are supposed to not change with time, but in our country, “liberals” don’t change.

May I request you to just introspect a little for a change? Learn from the liberals in the US, who are indulging in such acts after Donald Trump won. But I suspect that you are more impressed with those who are shouting “Not My President” and are in the streets burning US flags.

Those who are introspecting realize that they went too far in labelling people racist, sexist, fascist, bigot, evil, et al, just because they agreed with Donal Trump on various issues. And that you can’t win over people by insulting them.

When I heard that, I felt that there is something for the Right here in India too to learn. We shouldn’t go too far in branding people “anti national” for everything.

But my liberal friend, have you for a second felt something similar? Have you ever introspected?

That just as you accuse fans of this regime of reducing “nationalism” to a joke, you could have been doing the same to a lot of terms, especially terms like “secularism”, “tolerance”, “progressive”, “social justice”, and of course, “liberalism”?

Just like your Rajdeep Sardesai, within a week, got so incensed that he declared “Yes, I am anti-national”, you can’t see why many, after putting up with your reductionism for years, started feeling “to hell with you, yes, I am communal right winger fascist”?

You find nationalism reduced to a joke just within nine months, while you’ve been reducing those terms to joke for decades now.

You will realize that if you take a break from labelling people regressive Sanghi and bigoted Bhakt for disagreeing, and indulge in a bit of introspection.

Do that for yourself. Do that for the nation. Perhaps that will be a nationalist thing to do?

How demonetisation was wrongly blamed for some unfortunate deaths

NDTV's misleading headline
NDTV twists PM Modi's statement

I’m embarrassed that I even have to write a piece like this but sadly what I’m about to analyse reflects the pathetic state of the media in India. In particular I’m reacting to a bizarre and ludicrous piece of propaganda alleging a relationship between currency demonetisation and deaths of individuals.

The piece by Deputy Editor of Huffington Post India, Shivam Vij, claims that “there have already been 33 deaths due to demonetisation in 6 days”. The author is thus asserting a causal relationship between the government’s demonetisation of high denomination notes and these deaths.

Vij goes on to cite thirty three cases which allegedly support his claim but it doesn’t take much to figure out, that one can’t establish in any credible way a causal relationship between demonetisation and an individual’s death in so many of these cases.

Start with one of the most ludicrous cases where a “businessman” in Faizabad, Uttar Pradesh allegedly felt chest pains and died soon after watching Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s announcement of demonetisation on November 8. Are we supposed to believe that it was what he was watching that led to his death? So for example, if he were watching Star Wars, would we blame Darth Vader for his death?

Take the case of a 96-year-old man in Udupi, Karnataka who died allegedly waiting in a long queue in a bank. Guess what? The man’s son says his father’s death had nothing to do with waiting in queue at the bank. So this one is at best poor fact checking or poor attempt at propaganda by the author.

Up next, a 45-year-old man in Kerala dies while falling from a construction area in the bank branch where he was depositing money. He had already successfully deposited money the previous day at the same bank.  At best, you could blame lack of barricades that would have saved him falling but it’s more than a stretch to blame Modi and demonetisation.

It only gets bizarre from here. An elderly woman in Kanpur died apparently counting currency notes. Tragic, but had she died while reading the newspaper, presumably this intrepid journalist would blame the newspaper for her death?

How about an elderly person who didn’t even have to wait in a queue but collapsed of a heart attack upon reaching the bank? If he’d collapsed outside a movie theatre would this journalist blame the movie that was screened for his death? And even here, the man’s two sons say he had a pre-existing medical condition, wasn’t even standing in line and his death had nothing to do with demonetisation. The family has also expressed anger that their father’s death has been wrongly linked to demonetisation by the media.

Or how about a 45-year-old cashier in Bhopal who collapsed while working at the bank. The spin is he died overworked because of demonetisation but not a shred of evidence is offered to back this up.

A 17-year-old, son of a Border Security Force jawan allegedly commits suicide because his mother wouldn’t give him small denomination notes. There’s almost no limit to the implausible connections this writer can draw.

A couple have already been debunked. Consider where a doctor says she had to turn away parents of a sick baby not because they were carrying demonetised notes but she just didn’t have the right equipment to treat the baby. As it happens this doctor is now the subject of a First Information Report.

In another case a wife is allegedly taunted by her husband for her “inability” to stand in a queue at an ATM. She apparently commits suicide and her husband is now the subject of an investigation in abetting her suicide. So let’s get this straight. A possibly abusive husband taunts his wife for not waiting in queue at the mandi, is the vendor now the cause of what played out subsequently?

You get the idea. In each of these cases, someone dies, shortly after demonetisation but there’s no credible causal link between the two events. Also many of these stories have only a single source suggesting perhaps the version of the stories presented didn’t seem entirely credible even to other news organisations.

As I remarked at the outset, it’s embarrassing that one even needs to debunk such tripe. Any death is tragic but it’s shameful and scandalous that they’re wrongly linked to demonetisation, no less than from an international media house like Huffington Post.

That the Huffington Post does not like demonetisation is clear from pieces on the subject such as “Why the demonetisation drive violates our fundamental right to life” as shown below.

Huffington Post India on Demonetisation
So Supreme Court refused to intervene is something that was unconstitutional?

This is clearly not journalism nor is it even good propaganda. But that’s the Indian media scene for you.

(Written by Rupa Subramanya, who is an Economist and Columnist. Follow her @rupasubramanya)

Ravish Kumar hides a trader’s Congress affiliation in a bid to attack Demonetisation

Ravish Kumar, the NDTV India anchor, who claims to be the gold-standard in reporting, has landed in yet another controversy. In a bid to show how the demonetisation scheme was hurting businessmen, Ravish Kumar tried to pull off a fast one, but was caught in the act.

In his show he introduced an Ajay Arora as the head of Traders Association of Delhi, all the while forgetting to mention his Congress background. All this came to light via this expose

The video starts with Ravish in a bid to maintain his neutral image defended the demonetisation scheme from some disgruntled men. As the video progressed a crowd gathered around Ravish which very vocally starts supporting Modi and his demonetisation scheme. Suddenly the scene cuts to a terrace where Ravish was found standing with a mere 5-7 people. He explained the reason behind the location change was to get away from all the ‘Bheed-bhaad’. Incidentally in the opening scene of the video Ravish was heard commenting about how the area lacked it’s usual hustle and bustle.

Ravish then introduced Ajay Arora as the head of the Traders Association of Delhi. Arora then proceeded to bash the government’s scheme with a vengeance, by lamenting about the immense hardships he and other traders are facing, the men accompanying him also echoed his viewpoint.

Ajay Arora with Ajay Maken
Ajay Arora with Ajay Maken

The whole report was called into question when Tajinder Bagga searched the facebook profile of the eminent trader association head, Ajay Arora and found him to be the convener of All Delhi Traders Congress and in one of his photos was seen sharing the stage with Delhi congress chief Ajay Maken.

After a bit of digging we managed to find some Facebook posts which might cement Arora’s congress links. The first one shows Arora standing next to Ajay Maken during some fogging program and the second one shows him being part of Trader’s Congress’s “vasooli diwas” accompanied with people who were wearing Congress party’s Gandhi topis. These Facebook posts also might clear the air that the Congress in All Delhi Traders Congress refers to the Political party and is not a synonym to an ‘Association’.

All of the above facts were probably missed by Ravish Kumar during his research.

This is not the first time Ravish has been caught of misreporting facts, OpIndia.com had earlier reported how Ravish Kumar in his blog ‘I am not a super journalist’ twice distorted facts to discredit Kiran Bedi.

Latest rumour in the market debunked: SBI has waived off Mallya’s and other defaulters’ loans

The demonetisation scheme is in full swing. Numerous attempts to stall it have failed, with even the Supreme Court refusing to step in. We have already busted over 20 rumours about the scheme. What does the media do now? Bring up some irrelevant fact, twist it, and present it in context of the current scheme to incite passions. This is much like what Arvind Kejriwal did when he claimed the increase in deposits in September 2016 was related to demonetisation (which we had debunked here).

It started with this story in DNA, titled: “SBI writes off loans of 63 wilful defaulters”. While the headline is not totally off the mark, the report is completely off track (emphasis added):

India’s largest public sector bank has dropped more than Rs 7,000 crore, more than 80 per cent of the amount owed to it by its top 100 defaulters, into the Advance Under Collection Account (AUCA) bin for toxic loans. With efforts to recover its dues hitting a virtual dead-end, the State Bank of India (SBI) seems to be have started a clean-up of its balance sheets by writing off loans worth about Rs 7,016 crore owed to it by more than 60 of its top 100 wilful defaulters.

Towards the report did mention the real nature of AUCA accounts and write offs, but no-one seemed to have noticed that. And based on the headline and the initial misleading part, the outrage industry started, led by journalists:

Deputy Resident editor of The Hindu, quoted a tweet by Senior Asst editor of The Hindu, which first conflated “write-off” with “waiver”

Followed by another journalist:

And another:

And this deluded abusive journalist:

Once journalists had set the stage, politicians jumped in, a Congress spokesperson and the CPIM General Secretary:

So has SBI really waived off these loans? Not really. For this we need to understand what write-offs are. A balance sheet should reflect the real situation, not imaginary assets like the balance sheet created by Ramalinga Raju. And that’s why Banks have to write off loans. If they don’t write off loans, it is like claiming to hold an asset (loans given by banks, are assets of the bank) where none exists. Will you trust an entity that doesn’t give the true picture of its assets?

Hence write-offs are a purely technical, accounting entry. Write-offs give a true picture of the bank’s assets (loans given) and the income there on (interest). Accounts where prospects of recovery is bleak, are technically written off from the live ledgers and parked in AUCA in accordance with laid down instructions. Most write offs, irrespective of outstanding, should be treated as technical write offs and parked in AUCA and recovery process of these accounts will continue till resolution of these accounts (pdf link).

Even when accounts are written off, various recovery procedures like recovery suits  filed before the DRT/ Court. and action initiated under SARFAESI Act continue. Accounts held in AUCA may be taken up for dropping only after exhausting all avenues of recovery, hence merely transferring an account to AUCA is not a “waiver of the loan”.

So a write off mean the loan has been waived? Definitely not. Unless of course you are a media person with low IQ or a politician with an agenda, or a politician with low IQ or a journalist with an agenda.

Update: It was brought to our notice that a similar case of media misreporting had occurred in February 2016 also, and back then, the RBI had issued a clarification stating exactly what we have explained above:

RBI’s old clarification, which failed to educate our journalists

When media and media persons started a rumour: Indelible ink for withdrawals

Love it or hate it, media and especially mainstream media, is the one conduit of information which almost all Indians rely on. Be it the petrol price cut or the announcement of new measures during demonetisation, we all trust media to tell us the truth. Within this media there are media persons, and some very respected journalists, who we used to look up at. We expect that media and media persons, would feed us the correct information. But what does an ordinary citizen do when the media and media persons themselves fail?

In the current scenario, as the demonetisation scheme is being tweaked every few days so as to adapt to ever-changing needs, rumours too have begun flying thick and fast. We already had 2 rumour busting articles on our site, to alert citizens of our country to the facts. This is another one. And this besides busting a rumour, shows you how such rumours start.

It started off when the Economic Affairs Secretary held a press conference to announce many measures to ease the situation and also to add some sort of checks and balances. As is the fashion, news handles began live-tweeting his press conference. But Tweets have a character limit of 140 characters, and many times complex issues are misreported. And some thing like that happened here too:

Soon media reports were created based on this and the Indelible ink measure was now related to withdrawals:

The truth?
The truth?
Another story

And eminent media persons followed the media, and offered their “valuable” insights:

And this started the outrage industry on social media. But was this the truth? See for yourself what Shaktikanta Das said:

He clearly says that the measure of using indelible ink, was only to curb the practice of converting unaccounted cash into legitimate money by employing people to repeatedly exchange money. So the ink was to be used ONLY for over the counter exchange and not for “withdrawals” as many media houses had reported and as many journalists had commented on. For ATM withdrawals and withdrawals via self cheque, there was no need to be inked.

This is not a new rule per-se because even the original notification said that the Rs 4000 (now Rs 4500) exchange mechanism was available to each person only once, and not per day. Hence the use of ink only ensures stricter implementation of an existing rule.

In fact as the rumour began spreading, Mr Das even tweeted out to clarify the position:

Some media sites corrected the initial misreporting, but the eminent media person would not dare come out of their ivory towers. Erich Segal in his bestseller “Love Story” had written that “Love means never having to say you’re sorry”. Our journalists love their job so much that for them “Journalism means never having to say you’re sorry”, even when you’re wrong. Ashwatthama is dead again…

The truth about colour coming off the new Rs 2000 note

The new Rs 2000 note has probably been scrutinised more than any other note in the history of notes. People have dipped it in water, analysed its design, its colour, put it in the freezer, and of course rubbed it to see if its colour comes off. In fact many videos came on social media which showed that the new Rs 2000 note bled a pink colour when rubbed with a tissue paper. Some people even began claiming that this proved that it is a fake note and the RBI had been printing poor quality of counterfeit currency. So what is the truth?

Image result for 2000 rupee note
The note in question

The Economic Affairs Secretary Mr Shaktikanta Das set the record straight yesterday:

He clearly says that even the earlier notes of Rs 500 or Rs 1000 and even the current Rs 100 notes tend to bleed colour, because they use a special kind of ink called the “Intaglio” ink. He says that even if you take a new Rs 100 note and rub it vigorously with a cotton piece, some colour will definitely come out. The reason he explains, is that this is the inherent nature of the ink called Intaglio. Further, he goes on to say that if the colour doesn’t come off, then it maybe a fake currency note.

Will this explanation be enough to quell rumours? Will it satisfy the appetite of conspiracy theorists?

10 MORE rumours related to demonetisation that you might have believed as true

A couple of days ago, we listed the 10 worst rumours which were circulating in the mainstream media and the social media with regards to the demonetisation scheme, which were causing unnecessary panic and misinformation. And even as some of those rumours might still be circulating, we were informed of even more such rumours. Here are the next set of rumours you ought to be aware of:

1. Indelible ink to be used to identify people who’ve made withdrawals

This comes from the latest press conference by the Economic Affairs Secretary Mr Shaktikanta Das. Even some editors and media houses claim this:

Indelible Ink

The fact is, as seen in this video where the secretary is seen announcing the measure, the indelible ink will be used only for over-the-counter exchange (and not withdrawals) of cash for new currency notes. This is not a new rule per-se because even the original notification said that the Rs 4000 (now Rs 4500) exchange mechanism was available to each person only once, and not per day. Hence the use of ink only ensures stricter implementation of an existing rule.

2. Colour comes out of new 2000 rupee note, so it could be fake or insecure

Some viral messages and videos doing the rounds claim that the new 2000 rupee note is poorly designed and printed, especially because colour comes out if you rub it with wet a cloth. This too was rebutted by the Economic Affairs Secretary, who revealed that every note will have colour coming out if rubbed in that fashion. In fact, he added that due to a special ink used for pinting notes, the colour should come out of new notes. He clarified that even the 100 rupee notes, when freshly printed, would show similar results when rubbed with wet cloth or cotton.

3. There are only 2500 ATMs in rural India

A person connected with the Congress party was spreading this news on social media that was believed by many in the mainstream media. This is very far from the truth. As on 31 Dec 2015, the number of ATMs in rural centres was 33,250, and in semi-urban centres there were 51,942 ATMs

4. Any woman who is about to be married can withdraw up to Rs 5 lakhs rupees

You might have seen this WhatsApp forward:

Beti bachao?
Beti bachao?

There is no truth in this. Neither the RBI nor the Government of India has announced any such measure. Further, variants of the message bear the name of one Avinash Singh who is the ADM of some city. He too has written a letter denying any such option for women about to be married. DCP North Delhi has also denied this rumour:

Update (17 Nov 2016): Now the government has allowed families, who have weddings coming up, to withdraw up to 2.5 lakhs from banks.

5. Sensex falls by almost 700 points as markets open after weekends

The Indian Express tweeted this but probably forgot that Monday 14th November was a holiday for the bourses on account of Gurunanak Jayanti:

Sensex falls on a holiday
Sensex crashes on a holiday

6. Gandhiji’s pic deleted from new Rs 2000 note

This is probably the most stupid rumour but there are people who actually believe this. Just hope they had flipped the note and seen the reverse. This is the case with most older notes as well, Gandhiji’s picture is only on one side.

7. RBI plans mass leave on November 19 to protest against Modi’s Black Money Campaign

You might see this news on sites like “The Times Headline”

Back in time?
Back in time?

Fact of the matter is this news is based on a similar story from 2015, when Reserve Bank’s employees proposed one-day mass leave to protest what they termed as the government’s intention to curb the apex bank’s activity and intervening into monetary policies. This is a story from 2015 and has no relevance today. AAP too has been caught using old news articles to create confusion and chaos.

8. Gold (presumably converted from black money) worn by BJP leader’s daughter

Earlier Congress IT cell circulated picture of an unidentified girl, claiming she was a BJP leader’s daughter with bundle of new 2000 rupee notes. Same trick has been repeated again by circulating picture of a girl wearing gold ornaments and claiming she was a BJP leader’s daughter. A journalist working at The Hindu even tried to link it with the demonetisation drive. Perhaps to suggest that people related to BJP have already converted their black money into other assets, as is being claimed by Arvind Kejriwal. Fact is the girl in the picture circulated on social media is not BJP leader’s daughter, and in fact doesn’t look like her even remotely.

Mistaken identity
Mistaken identity or deliberate mischief?

9. News about demonetisation was leaked and published in a Gujarati newspaper in April this year

Congress and AAP have claimed that the news about demonetisation was leaked to some people and they have been making ridiculous claims as proof. One such proof is provided as cutting of a Gujarati newspaper that has a news report published in April, which said that government has decided to discontinue 500 and 1000 rupee notes.

April fool prank article
Rajkot based evening newspaper Akila published the article on 1st April 2016

Truth is that the above news report was actually a April Fool’s prank that the Gujarati newspaper had published.

10. Gujarati businessman who bought Modi’s suit deposited 6000 crores in cash

A viral news article claimed that Surat based businessman Laljibhai Patel had surrendered a whopping 6000 crore rupees in cash after the demonetisation drive. He was identified as the same diamond merchant who had bought Narendra Modi’s monogrammed suit, which was auctioned by the Prime Minister to raise funds for cleaning of river Ganga. After the news went viral, local media contacted Mr. Patel, who denied surrendering such huge amount of cash. He pointed out that even the unverified reports say that the man rumoured to have surrendered so much cash was a builder, while he was a diamond merchant.

Funnily, or rather tragically, The Indian Express blamed the social media for spreading the rumour, while its sister publication was the one guilty in spreading this rumour:

Caught: AAP using news items of 2015 to spread panic about Demonetisation

Angry Kejriwal

Ever since the scheme of demonetisation of Rs 500 and Rs 1000 notes has kicked in, some in media and social media are desperate to spread malicious rumours to thwart the scheme. We had already listed such rumours here and busted each one of them. Political parties are also not far behind with Arvind Kejriwal and AAP leading from the front. We showed you how Kejriwal’s baseless allegation that some people were tipped off before the scheme started was devoid of any logic.

It appears that now AAP has shed any pretence of being a logical opposition and has decided to resort to spreading rumours, in the hope that some large scale disruption takes place. Kejriwal on his part has tried his best to create the “afra tafri” atmosphere by repeatedly using this phrase:

And AAP has gone one step ahead, choosing to lie to the common man whom they claim to represent. Posted on the official AAP Facebook page at 9 am today was the following news, along with a meme, which claimed RBI was going on a 1 day mass protest.

AAP's Facebook post
AAP’s Facebook post

Attached with the meme was a news link which showed the source of the news. Click here for the full link, and see what news do you see. And specifically check the date.

Yes, Aam Aadmi Party has shared a news story from November 2015, trying to portray as if it is happening now in November 2016. The proposed protest last year was in relation to the proposed mechanism of Monetary Policy Committee. And obviously nothing to do with the current demonetisation scheme. Then why did AAP share this story now? What was the intention of posting a news in November 2016, about a strike which was supposed to take place in November 2015?

Is this just a poor mistake? Or is this a deliberate misrepresentation of facts? If it was a genuine mistake, then it is highly surprising that AAP has not removed the post even now, although the first comment on the post alerting them about the “mistake” was posted just 43 minutes after they posted the image. Further, other people kept on alerting AAP yet the post still exists:

The warnings
The warnings

This reveals that the intention of the anti-corruption party AAP is to only create a sense of panic among the masses, hoping that something untoward may happen and the scheme fails. Will Government of India act on this?

Why the so-called liberals forced Paytm to take off an ad

In India, more than being a liberal – where you are willing to accommodate dissenting voices – it is important to appear a liberal – where you shout every hour that you’re liberal and thus drown out the dissenting voices.

This shouting is a form of virtue signalling that helps people with otherwise sad credentials to aspire for respectability in a particular social circle.

And a lot of so-called liberals indulged in collective shouting yesterday after mobile wallet brand Paytm released an ad that hurt their guilty conscience.

The ad showed a woman from upper middle class talking about how demonetisation stopped her from paying money to her maid, as she didn’t have ready cash. The character was going on and on with her rant when the maid interrupted her and asked her to stop making excuses and transfer money to her via Paytm. The upper middle class woman in the ad was shocked at this awareness and technology adoption by her maid. And that was the end of the ad, telling people to use Paytm if cash was not available.

The ad upset some “liberals” so much that they uninstalled Paytm from their smartphones and tagged its founder Vijay Shekhar Sharma on Twitter, threatening that all of them will uninstall the application and thus hurt his business.

Many of these outraged shouting virtue signalling liberals were from the media industry that has the power to hurt a brand’s image through biased reporting. Perhaps that led to Vijay Shekhar Sharma apologising and Paytm deleting the ad from its Twitter page.

Paytm founder apologises
Paytm founder forced to apologise. Threat was dressed up as “feedback”.

While economic boycott is a different matter, what is crucial here is to notice how the ad pricked the guilty conscience of the so-called liberals, who grouped up to launch a mob attack. But just as their threat was dressed up as “feedback”, their angst at being exposed was dressed up as “compassion”.

Some of them claimed that the ad was patronising towards the maid. Really? Fact is that the ad showed a confident maid shutting her patronising employer up. Others said it mocked situation of people who were facing inconvenience due to demonetisation. No. It mocked those who were using the excuse of inconvenience to be lazy in general and unfair to maids in particular, so far as the ad’s copy was concerned.

The truth is that the ad touched them where it hurts the most. Where a privileged class person arrogates the right to speak for the underprivileged class under the garb of activism. Where this class assumes that maids must be poor enough not to have a smartphone (even though some really cheap ones are available) and stupid enough not to know how to use apps (though maid’s husbands can be Uber drivers using an advanced app? A hint of sexism there? Poor women can’t use apps?).

When a maid decides to speak for herself and comes up with a view that is not aligned with the ‘liberal’ stand, this privileged class is taken aback and is forced to shut up. This makes them angry. And this is what made them shout, uninstall the app, and tag the Paytm founder with their threats.

The bunch that shouts ‘rising intolerance’ and ‘free speech’ on every possible occasion, successfully arm twisted a brand to take off their ad.

But as it happens on Twitter, every shouting is met with counter shouting. People asked Paytm if they will wind up their business if enough shouting virtue signalling liberals told them that their business was a scam? No argument, no logic required?

Finally good sense prevailed and Paytm brought back the ad with a minor modification; where the maid is being a bit more respectful to her employer by not terming her excuses as “drama”. Ah, that was another thing that hurt the guilty conscience of virtue signalling liberals. The drama by the elitist snobs of being considerate towards the unwashed masses.


This is not for the first time when the so-called liberal crowd has forced brands to take off ads in the last couple of years, all while shouting that they were facing intolerance under the new regime. Earlier Pepsi was forced to delay release of its ad as some so-called liberals claimed it mocked FTII and JNU students. Havells was forced to take off an ad as people who can’t see beyond caste termed it casteist. And Yatra.com was attacked for an ad that had a character similar to JNU lout Kanhaiya Kumar.

So much for creativity, free speech, tolerance, accommodation, and liberalism.

10 rumours related to demonetisation that you might have believed as true

As we enter the 5th day of the government’s ambitious demonetisation drive, the dust looks far from settled. People are flocking to banks and ATMs to get that wad of acceptable cash. While largely people are calm and accepting the inconvenience as a part of their sacrifice for the greater good of the nation, there are some who want the scheme to fail at all cost.

Baseless rumours are being spread to create panic among the citizens. The culprits can be anyone; political parties with vested interests, power brokers in the media, your neighbours who sold their ancestral property for 60:40 cash, or maybe a stupid friend who believes everything he receives as WhatsApp forward.

In such a scenario, it’s important to separate the wheat from the chaff and also to identify poisonous weeds in your backyard. So we list down 10 things that you or someone you know might have believed as true, but which are rumours or plain lies:

1. Transporters are going on strike, so you must stock up essential goods in your household

You might have received the following information on WhatsApp or seen it on Facebook or Twitter. It says that the transporters have decided to go on a strike starting tomorrow, due to which things like groceries or FMCG goods won’t be able to reach markets.

Strike
Rumour about impending transporters’ strike.

Truth is that no such strike has been announced. The same has been debunked by the Ministry of Road transport and highways.

2. Fake currency of new denomination already in the market

A story going around says that a vegetable seller claimed he was duped with a fake Rs 2000 note. This spread panic that the new currency was not secured enough. It turned out that he was fooled by a coloured xerox of the note. The headline of the new report was misleading that led to the rumour of a counterfeit currency being involved.

Take a look at the supposed counterfeit note yourself below. While one feels bad for the poor vegetable seller, isn’t it too easy to spot that the one on the top is a coloured xerox copy? Just look at the edges. You don’t even need to look for further security features such as watermark.

Fake 2000 rupee note.
Missing stripes, incomplete national emblem and odd margins. Too bad even for fake.

3. New 2000 rupees note has a nano chip

While on one had you have rumours about the currency already being faked, there is a flip side to this rumour that claims that the note is super secure, loaded with a nano chip that can be tracked. Zee News even aired a report about it. No, there is no chip.

4. Shopping mall in Delhi looted as people didn’t have cash to buy goods

There are some reports about shops being looted in some parts of the countries because people didn’t have ready cash to buy things. A viral video clip shows people in Delhi looting a mall. People are sharing the clip claiming the looting happened due to demonetisation troubles.

But that is far from the truth. The mall in question was a self-catering mall where card holding members take along the stocks they need. Yes, there was disorder due to some miscreants, but it was not looting. Delhi police too clarified it on Twitter.

5. Salt is selling at high prices all across the country

This one is perhaps the most rampant rumour, even NDTV reported about the rumour in such a way that it helped spread the rumour. In short, some wise men decided to spread the word that there’s a huge crisis of salt in the country which led to further rumours about its price per Kg increasing to Rs 400. It led to some panic buying, but salt was not being sold at any exorbitant rates in the country.

Union Minister of State for Commerce and Industry, Nirmala Sitharaman herself had to step in to curb the rumours.

6. 200% penalty will be imposed on cash that will be deposited in banks

Various numbers are doing the round claiming people will have to pay high tax on bank deposits above 2.5 lakh rupees. From 95% tax on the deposited amount to whopping 200% on the deposit amounts. This OpIndia report debunks the rumour and is also a great insight about how the taxes will be levied.

7. BJP leaders and their relatives already had 2000 rupee notes

This rumour has been spread by activists of the Aam Aadmi Party and the Congress party. This OpIndia report exposes the lies spread by Congress IT cell where picture of a bank employee was circulated as picture of a BJP leader’s daughter, while this report debunks another such claim made by AAP supremo Arvind Kejriwal.

8. Violence outside banks and ATMs due to long queues of people withdrawing cash

News agency PTI put out a tweet claiming the Delhi police got a staggering 4.5 thousand calls about violence outside banks and ATMs. It should be noted that reports or information by PTI is carried as it is by news organisations and any error, rumour, or lie will be repeated thousand times.

And this claim by the PTI turned out to be hugely exaggerated and misleading. Delhi police indeed received many calls but not related to violence outside banks or ATMs.

Not only violence, people spread rumour about stampedes too, which again were false.

9. Many deaths due to inconvenience and unavailability of ready cash

While there indeed has been an unfortunate death, it has now come to light that some other deaths are being deliberately linked to demonetisation by some in the media. For example, relatives of a person who unfortunately died, have themselves clarified that the death had got nothing to do with demonetisation.

Man died due to demonetisation - fake news
How media is using tragedies to invent controversies.

Similarly, another such unfortunate death reported by media and linked to demonetisation is turning out to be a case of accident or suicide due to personal issues (update).

10. Pictures of humongous queues at banks or crowds protesting against demonetisation

While there is no denying the fact that there are queues outside banks and ATMs, many miscreants are spreading photos from different times and places claiming they were pictures of queues and chaos while withdrawing money. People belonging to political parties are even using old pictures of some other protests to claim that citizens are protesting against the demonetisation drive.

Some of these have been exposed by people on Twitter, but you may still receive those on WhatsApp or Facebook:

So be alert and aware, and don’t believe such rumours. Also, spread this article in your social circle so that these rumours can be stopped from spreading and creating panic among the citizens.

UPDATE: We have another list of another 10 rumours. Read those by clicking here.

Raghav Bahl and the depressing jugaad of Indian journalism

Raghav Bhal
Former founder of Network18 and current founder of The Quint

Dance like no one’s watching, Sing like no one’s listening, and Write articles in the mainstream media like no one’s fact-checking: This seems to be the modern mantra. And one devout follower of this mantra is Shri Raghav Bahl, founder of the Bloomberg-Quint, an Indian online “Business and Financial” site, in tie-up with the worldwide giant Bloomberg. Bahl displays his fact-free lifestyle in a particularly obtuse piece titled: PM Modi, Demonetisation ‘Brahmastra’ Could’ve Avoided Hurting Poor

As is fashionable these days, the piece starts with an example of the quintessential maid, who is dumb enough to be conned into giving her Rs 5000 (in notes of Rs 500) to some “friend” shopkeeper for just 5 notes of Rs 100. Maybe this maid studied at FTII, but I have 2 maids (house-helps to be politically correct) at home and 1 at work; and all 3 of them knew exactly what was going on. Hope this maid of Bahl’s fantasies isnt like one of those fake “gau rashaks attacked me” stories.

Bahl’s entire article argues that the government should have given time to people till 31st December. That may sound so good given the reports about inconvenience people are facing due to long queues at banks. But Bahl himself agrees that giving this time could have given an escape route to people with unaccounted cash, who could have indulged in some deals to turn that cash into white money or legal assets. Now they can’t deal with that cash as it’s no longer a legal tender.

So what exactly is Bahl’s point? He essentially says that people can still do some “jugaad” and convert their unaccounted cash into white money. He offers ridiculously simplistic explanations (actually there are no explanations, just fantastical stories) in his article as how this jugaad can happen. If only real life was so simple as if playing a video game with cheat code.

In this video game that Bahl is playing through his article, there is a character called “Rambhai”, the quintessential corrupt businessman. Before we get to how Rambhai actually manages to get rid of his ill-gotten cash through jugaad, let us study his character, through Bahl’s own words:

“At 8 pm on 8 November, Rambhai would have finished a greasy vegetarian meal and settled down to listen to his hero, Prime Minister Modi’s specially televised address.”

You say it best when you say nothing at all Raghav-bhai. What Bahl wanted to say was Rambhai was a Hindu, high-caste Gujju (hence vegetarian), possible gau-sevak, corrupt Modi bhakt, but wrapped it in euphemisms like “Ram” bhai, and “vegetarian meal”.

Now that we know Bahl’s Rambhai, let us enter Bahl’s cuckoo world where all laws cease to exist and only jugaad (which he never cares to explain) reins.

So Rambhai apparently has Rs 1 crore in unaccounted cash, which he has to finish before the deadline of midnight 8th November. How does he do it? Simply pays Rs 60 lakhs to a goldsmith (Shyambhai) for buying gold at 8.45 pm, and subsequently, at an undisclosed time, pays Rs 40 lakhs to a Tata Motors dealer for a sparkling new Jaguar XF.

Forget about the gold for a bit and let’s talk about the Jaguar. In Bahl’s world, Tata Motor’s showrooms are open beyond 8.45 pm at night. Nonetheless, I checked up with the local Mercedes showroom for the procedure to buy a car. They said irrespective of my mode of payment, I would need to submit my PAN. Why, because a PAN is mandatory while buying or selling a four-wheeler that requires registration under the Motor Vehicles Act, 1988, irrespective of its value. PAN is also mandatory for all transactions above Rs 2 lakhs. And more recently, there is a levy of 1% TCS on sale of all motor vehicles costing over Rs 10 lakhs, which again entails a declaration of PAN.

How does Raghav-bhai imagine Rambhai will avoid all this reporting? Jugaad. Yes, he says that the local auto dealer of Tata Motors would do some “usual jugaad”.

So is Raghav-bhai suggesting that Tata Motors would sell a luxury car worth Rs 40 lakhs without an invoice? And would account for this mysterious disappearance of inventory by claiming “Modiji ne kiya hai”? Or does he suggest Tata Motors does not maintain documentation for purchases and the entire product chain, which is why it is so simple for them to do this magical “jugaad”? Maybe this is why Mistry was sacked then?

Since there was no explanation or hint of this jugaad, I tried to hazard a guess; maybe the dealer puts a dummy guy’s PAN. Cash from Rambhai but PAN of Laxmanbhai (why should only Bahl create characters?). But even in that case, the dealer has to register the car in Rambhai’s name only. So again, it will be a mismatch and this jugaad can easily be spotted as fraud by authorities.

So there is no explanation of how this “usual” jugaad is happening, but we are supposed to believe that it is happening. Going further, Raghav-bhai mentions that “Rs 40 lakh of black money has made its way into the Tata Motors’ balance sheet”, so how does this exactly work? Tata Motors dealer doesn’t do any documentation which incriminates Rambhai, YET, the money is reflected in Tata Motors accounts. Super-Jugaad this.

At this point I was reminded of a post that I saw on Facebook by one of my friends. He claimed that some bankers were taking “cut” of 10% and converting unaccounted cash into white money. How? In the same Facebook post he claimed that he doesn’t know how, but this is happening. I laughed at such rumor mongering, but now I think he should be hired by Raghav Bahl as a senior correspondent at The Quint. He can also drop words like cut and jugaad without any explanation. Poor guy is writing Facebook posts when he could have written editorials.

Coming back to the Bahl’s Rambhai, he gets a car and gold and apparently all his accounted cash is now white, because taxmen are blind not to see a luxury car or glitter of gold. Yes, in Bahl’s story, Rambhai is all cool and safe. Now the story moves to Shyambhai, the person who sold gold to Rambhai and is saddled with the cash now.

How does Shyambhai get rid of this cash in Raghav-bhai’s wonderful lala land? He buys a Harley, an iPhone and an “Italian Jacuzzi”. And just like that Shyambhai’s problems are over too. But what about the sellers of these goods, the other “bhais”? How do they account for this sudden cash without raising invoices in the name of Shyambhai? Unless Multinational companies like Harley Davidson and Apple also practice the “Tata Motors Jugaad” of not maintaining records yet adding to their topline?

But this is the example of just one Rambhai, what about the millions of such Rambhais? Well, Raghav-bhai has an answer for that too:

“They will round up 1 crore poor, unemployed people all over the country, especially in small towns and far-flung villages. For 50 mornings, these 1 crore people will throng banks and post offices, depositing cash in small quantities in their hitherto unused Jan Dhan accounts. Each will deposit an average of Rs 3 lakh, until Rs 3 lakh crore are in the bank.”

Of course, rounding up 1 crore poor people and ensuring 100% secrecy and privacy for such dealings is so easy in the video game real world. I mean if the “Tata Motors Jugaad” is doable, why not this? It’s not as if the Government can not trace and monitor this sudden spurt in Jan Dhan Accounts now, can it?

Jan Dhan
In a parallel universe

And that is how Indians like Rambhai and Shyambhai would have made their way around Modi’s seemingly impregnable plan. So easy no? And with that, Raghav-bhai proves that while corrupts like Rambhai and Shyambhai are all cool and safe, the poor and honest are inconvenienced by standing in queues and struggling for ready cash.

And why is this all believable? Because the learned Raghav Bahl wrote this all while chewing on his beef steak after signing a petition for PETA (hey, even I can hazard a guess on Raghav-bhai’s dietary habits going by his world view right?). And of course because no Government or media body would ever dare take any sort of action an any of the highly misleading content. Why? Because then Raghav-bhai would scream “Emergency”.

All drama and no logic – Kejriwal’s press conference on demonetisation

Arvind Kejriwal was an Income Tax Officer in the IRS. Being in this position, one would expect him to be fairly conversant with how the financial world works, how taxes work, how banks work, and how the parallel economy works. After he quit his job, he was known as India’s anti-corruption crusader, along with Anna Hazare, who has now lost faith in Kejriwal.

Thus, due to the nature of his previous work, and the cause he has always publicly espoused, one would have expected Kejriwal to back the demonetisation scheme. After all, even sworn political enemies of BJP like Nitish Kumar and Sharad Pawar supported the move. If not support, given his educational degree of being an IIT-ian, coupled with his work experience, one would at least expect Kejriwal to critically analyse the scheme and point out to serious, objective loopholes.

Today, the AAP supremo and Delhi Chief Minister announced that he was going to address a press conference where he will expose a “scam” related to demonitisation. But instead of any facts related to any scam, we got exactly what Delhi’s voters have got: trash and lies.

Arvind Kejriwal concocted gossips like “some people have told me that BJP had informed some people before hand”. While this is in line with his style of spreading rumour, this time he also made some allegations which can easily be fact-checked.

For example, this was one of his claims:

“In previous quarters, deposits (growth) in banks were negative. But in the July-to-September quarter, such large amounts were being deposited in the banks. Who did all this money belong to? Had BJP told its friends in advance?”

This is so hilarious that it is sad that an IITian, IRS officer, who supposedly is against corruption, uttered such a non-nonsensical remark. Finance Minister Arun Jaitley has studied the matter and said the increase was only for September 2016, because of the release of Pay Commission’s salary arrears on 31 August. Never mind that, and let us analyse what Kejriwal said.

First of all, the basic premise of this argument is ludicrous. Let us assume for arguments sake, BJP did tip off some people and they did deposit their black money in advance, before the November 8 announcement. What end goal did they achieve? What incremental benefit did they get by depositing black money in banks, 1-2 months before the Government made it mandatory? Banks are highly regulated and for many years now, even a deposit above Rs 50,000 needs a PAN to be furnished. So these so-called corrupt people can easily be detected.

Secondly, contrary to popular belief, an unexplained deposit into a bank before 8th November, and another after 8th November, face the exact same legal punishments and penalties (the 200% penalty). This is because this penalty flows from the amended Section 270A of the Income Tax Act, which came into effect from April 2016, and it covers a wide range of tax evasion and fraud, and not just cash deposits. So if these crooks, whom BJP had allegedly tipped off, deposited cash before 8th November, the source of which cannot be explained, then they will face the exact same legal process as the ones who are depositing now. So what was the exact intention of the BJP when it, as per Kejriwal, informed some of its friends?

Thirdly, if someone actually puts his black money into banks even when the Government had not asked for it, he should be called an idiot. He has himself disclosed to the formal economy that he has so much unaccounted wealth. Instead, if a real crook had known in advance about this scheme, he would tried aggressively to convert his hard cash, into other assets like real estate or gold. Remember the reports of how gold-smiths were the favoured location for many people soon after PM Modi made the announcement?

Fourth: Kejriwal’s idiotic claims can be contested using his own party’s statements. In 2015, his own party was under scrutiny for accepting cheques from dubious companies and the allegations were of money laundering. Then, his own party had said that “to put Rs 50 lakh in an Indian bank without being detected is making a mockery of India’s banking system”:

AAP 2015

Yet, today Kejriwal claims that thousands of crores of black money was deposited in banks in a move to negate getting caught by the demonetisation scheme.

Arvind Kejriwal also claimed that BJP leaders had 2000 rupee notes with them even before the announcement was made public by the Prime Minister. He based his claim on a few tweets he had posted and shared earlier. Even the Deputy Chief Minister of Delhi, Manish Sisodia had shared similar tweet.

In one of the tweets, where Kejriwal quoted tweet of an abusive journalist, he claimed that it was the proof that BJP members had got their old 500 and 1000 rupee notes exchanged before the announcement was made public:

Making such allegations based on a tweet is very flimsy and almost laughable. It should be noted that the BJP leader in question, a certain Sanjeev Kamboj, had shared pictures that were already public a day before.

For example, compare his tweet and another tweet that was posted a day before by a person who has got nothing to do with the BJP:

Looking at the content and pictures in both the above tweets, it becomes clear that the BJP leader was sharing some “leaked” pictures that had already gone viral on social media by then. It was not a picture of him personally holding that cash, as suggested by Kejriwal.

It should be further noted that reports about RBI introducing a 2000 rupee note had been published in October itself and leaked pictures of such notes had been doing the rounds. On 5th and 6th November, many people posted such leaked pictures, one of whom happened to be a BJP person.

This can hardly be termed as conclusive proof of BJP people having exchanged their notes in advance. Also, will a person really post a picture on a public forum like Twitter if he indulged in some secret act? Kejriwal thinks so.

In his press conference, Kejriwal made another fascinating and self incriminating claim. He claimed that Dollars were being sold in “black” for up to Rs 120 per dollar in Delhi itself.

This, ladies and gentlemen, is Delhi’s Chief Minister, announcing at a press conference, that he is aware of money launderers in Delhi who are converting their illicit money. So has Kejriwal given the information of such people to the cops? Or are these imaginary people?

Instead of acting against erring persons, Kejriwal actually went ahead and announced that his state government was not carrying out any raids against anybody in any suspected case of cash hoarding or tax evasion.


All in all, Kejriwal has become India’s number one rumour-monger. A great fall for a man once hailed to herald a new era of politics in India.

Rahul Gandhi visits bank to experience pain of people, gives them more pain

Rahul Gandhi, who had vowed to learn from AAP after the grand old party suffered defeat in 2013 Delhi assembly elections, seems to have perfected the art. The Congress Vice President beat Arvind Kejriwal of AAP in creating a TV drama when he decided to stand in a queue outside a bank today.

The party claimed that this step by Rahul Gandhi was to stand in solidarity with the common man who was facing inconvenience due to demonetization of old 500 and 100 rupee notes.

Earlier, there were media reports about long queues outside banks and ATMs and new currency notes not being available at some bank branches. NDTV, the TV news channel considered close to the Congress party, even asked people to send video clips that showcase the trouble people have been facing.

And it appears that Rahul Gandhi volunteered to make one such video clip.

In the afternoon today, Rahul Gandhi visited the Parliament Street branch of State Bank of India in Delhi to exchange 4000 rupees of old notes. If the aim was to witness how people were inconvenienced, Rahul Gandhi succeeded, for his presence made life tougher for people standing in the queue.

Rahul Gandhi’s visit was accompanied by security persons as well as media persons visiting the aforementioned bank. This caused even more inconvenience to people standing in the queue. There were reports that people were even not allowed to enter the bank after Rahul Gandhi went inside to exchange the money.

A senior correspondent with Hindustan Times shared a video clip where a man was complaining about inconvenience he faced due to Rahul Gandhi joining the queue:

Among those inconvenienced by Rahul Gandhi’s photo-op were senior citizens who couldn’t endure the pain of standing too long in the queue as the proceedings got delayed with a VIP entering the bank.

Finally, Rahul Gandhi blasted Narendra Modi for causing inconvenience to people.

Swiggy offers “Modi” coupons as brands rush to benefit from demonetization drive

Government’s decision to scrap old 500 and 1000 rupees notes and replace them with new ones is primarily aimed at curbing the domestic black money hoarded in cash. But it has another objective too – to help the country move towards cashless economy.

People like Nandan Nilekani, former CEO of Infosys and architect of the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI), has been among the votaries of cashless economy arguing that not only will it benefit the common man in receiving government benefits, it will also curb corruption.

Demonetization of high value currency notes is being seen as an opportunity to introduce people to cashless transaction as they will be short on cash for a few days due to rush at banks and ATMs, and thus the other option remaining is to use digital wallets or other modes of digital payments.

And this opportunity is being grabbed by many. Digital wallet Paytm coming up with a full page ad congratulating PM Modi and using his image has been creating a lot of buzz, but Paytm is not alone that is latching on to this opportunity.

Online food ordering app Swiggy, where one can pay through digital wallets or credit cards if one doesn’t have ready cash, too rode on PM Modi’s name and offered cashback to new customers in shape of a coupon code “MODI”:

As the tweet above says, perhaps Swiggy was fortunate that Delhi CM Arvind Kejirwal didn’t get their promotional SMS else he would have questioned the “deal” between Swiggy and PM Modi too the way he insinuated a deal between Paytm and the Prime Minister.

Surprisingly, Jio Money, the digital wallet offering from Reliance, doesn’t seem to be trying to ride this demonetization wave through such marketing gimmicks. It should be noted that Jio was the first one to use PM Modi’s image in an ad – a trick that Paytm copied.

While Paytm and Swiggy used PM Modi’s name to push people towards cashless transactions in wake of the demonetization, other entities, especially e-commerce websites and banks, were keeping it simple:

Banks have been sending SMS and emails to their customers asking them to increasingly use their debit cards or credit cards for transactions. Banks like ICICI, who have their own digital wallets, are urging their customers to use their products to escape long queues at banks and ATMs.

But the most surprising use of riding this demonetization wave and use of PM Modi’s image has been an ad issued by a lifestyle brand Lawman Pg3. We are not yet sure how do they benefit from cashless economy:

The truth about 200% penalty and losing all your money to taxes if you deposit old cash

There are some things the media just doesn’t understand. You may have seen various reports which range from the scary to the alarmist on the topic of demonetization of the Rs 500 and Rs 1000 notes. In fact, here social media warriors must also take the blame for spreading grossly exaggerated news. Yes, I am talking about the reports and memes which say that you will have to pay almost 95% tax on the old cash you deposit in banks. Some in social media even interpreted that the 200% penalty is on the income, thus you need to pay more than your income!

Is this completely false? No, there is a small grain of truth in this which makes believing such news even easier. But the fact is, to reach this stage where you have to pay 90% + as taxes, you need to go through a lot of stuff. And in the age of instant news and meme-worthy material, such nuances are always lost. So here is what should happen (in the normal course) to a person depositing excessive amounts of cash:

1. Say Mr A has Rs 1 crore in cash of old currency notes. He has time till 30th December 2016 to deposit the same in banks (extended till 31 March 2017 with additional documentation)

2. As soon as Mr A deposits this money, he needs to have an explanation ready for the source of this cash. Note here the explanation needs to be ready, neither the banks nor the Income Tax will ask for it as of now.

3. So the explanations can be any of the below or a combination of the below options, depending on each case:

a. Mr A’s cash is entirely “white”, on which he has already paid tax i.e. this is cash which has been declared in his books of accounts or he has withdrawn this from the bank. Can there be such cases? Any business which is heavily based on cash for business reasons can surely have such a balance of cash, depending on the day to day volumes.

b. Mr A’s cash is entirely “black”, so to speak, which means he has never paid any taxes on the same.

4. So once Mr A deposits such “white” cash, he has no problems what so ever since he has already paid taxes on the same. He just has to collect evidence of the source and keep it ready.

5. If the cash is “black” though, it becomes “white” as soon as he deposits it into the bank. Thus, now Mr A will have to include this in his annual income, and think of a source for it. Since he has added it to his annual taxable income, he has to pay taxes on that (assumed to be 30% for simplicity).

6. Once he pays the taxes, comes the year end in March 2017. He collates all his financial data, and files an income tax return by July or September 2017 depending on his volume of business etc. Here, he should make sure that the money he deposited is shown in the returns. Please note, in the ordinary course, the Income Tax Department will not bother you even till September 2017.

7.  Now since Mr A had huge cash deposits, his transactions would have been reported to the Income Tax Department by the bank. The IT Department will wait till Mr A files his returns, and will probably issue him a notice post September 2017 announcing that they want to scrutinise his books of accounts.

8. This notice will start a series of hearings, proceedings etc where Mr A has to prove things such as where in his tax returns are the cash deposits shown as income, what was the source of income etc.

9. If the officer is not satisfied with his explanations, he can then issue an order which levies a penalty on him. The penalty can be either 50% of tax amount (for under-reporting) or even 200% of tax amount (for mis-reporting) depending on the nature of default. If the officer wants to levy the heavier 200% penalty, the onus lies on the officer to prove that mis-reporting has taken place. Please note by the time this order will be passed, we would be well into 2018.

10. So is the end of the road? No. Mr A can appeal against the decision at multiple levels. He can appeal to the Commissioner (Appeals), the Income Tax Tribunal and even the Courts. Some of the legal means of avoiding penalty are given here.

So to lose 90% plus of your cash deposited in your bank accounts, all the above needs to happen, and as anyone in the industry will tell you, there are many a slip between the cup and the lip. Still, there are some important points to note here:

1. I am not an expert in Income tax assessment proceedings and the above article has been significantly dumbed down for public consumption. If you are in a Mr A type situation, please consult an expert with the exact facts of your case.

2. All of the above holds true in “ordinary course”. The IT Department can at any time decide to change the ordinary course by either taking a more harsh stand and investigating in advance, or a softer stand by framing a policy to let go a class of tax payers mildly.

3. This does not constitute legal advice.

4. Most importantly: Do not take tax advice from WhatsApp forwards.

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